If music had a dukedom
Castro Arms is the debut EP from curious Berkeley band Violet Hour. Violet Hour is comprised of…well, it’s hard to say really… the true identity of the band is hard to put a finger on. Looking at their openly available biography the casual internet buffoon (such as myself) will be informed that Violet Hour is a three piece, headed by the self styled Le Duc Violet, supported by “local titans” of the California scene Beef Donut and The Jasper Leech. I hope I am forgiven if I am slightly dubious of the integrity of these fine characters.
Never mind, that doesn’t matter anyway. In fact, it is one of the reasons why Violet Hour is worth keeping an eye on. The whole joie de vivre that pulsates through Castro Arms is exemplified in the enigmatic persona of Le Duc himself. Violet Hour strike the difficult balance between indie rock sensibilities and blending the much worn formula with a fresh, oddball sense of wild and chaotic humour. Songs such as the jangling ‘Money Down’ exemplify this balance. The melody is furiously catchy and the chorus comes fast. It is like a train, but a rickety train, made from pots and pans, a top hat for a chimney, puffing purple smoke. The scratchy guitar work and gravelly vocals evoke a sense of danger and excitement, like the whole song is going to collapse onto itself.
However, although odd and although curious, there is more than simply one flavour to the mad sonic stew integral to Violet Hour’s being. Other tracks evoke mixed feelings. Often what is produced seems unsettling, there is a more subtle undergrowth of pure feeling, melancholy and anger runs beneath the quizzical hook of the music. In particular, ‘Stole my skin’ speaks in great depth about having the desire to fit in; to garner love through an alter ego and the strange peculiarity of feeling at home in another skin. This reveals the great wealth, a reservoir of angst and doubt, so well expressed in their own style which undoubtedly gives a great validity to the band’s music.
Sonically too, the scope of the album expands greatly the further one delves. The sprawling ‘Pride of the Plain’ builds pace, instrumentation, vocal harmonising and guitar hooks to a soaring opus that is built to come down again into a reduction of its component parts. While far from perfect musical virtuosity, the patterns bring the listeners attention to the contribution that each instrument provides and how each come together to create the overall picture that the bands paint (with great, fat brushes that is, and fat strokes too).
Castro Arms is a thoroughly listenable album, and what is more, if one digs deeper it doesn’t disappoint. It is funny, ramshackle, catchy but poignant. It is a well crafted and coherent work and I look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future.