Ringo Deathstarr have had quite a busy year since their long awaited debut LP, Colour Trip dropped back in February. A pretty relentless touring schedule and high praise following their (reportedly, one dozen) appearances at SXSW have finally gotten people talking about this band, who have existed in various incarnations since 2005. Hailing from Austin, Texas, the line-up shifts have perhaps somewhat halted this groups progression, but in their current form – a three piece featuring Elliot Frazier on guitar and vocals, Alex Gehring on bass and Daniel Coborn behind the drums – the band are at long last reaping some reward for the sterling effort invested in this project so far.
Sparkler, at 27 minutes long is probably more deserving of the title EP, rather than album and during that short half an hour, the group squeeze in nine tracks which recap the earlier days of the band. Opener ‘Swirly’ kicks off with a heavily distorted, dirty guitar sound which is soon met with Frazier’s nonchalant, lulling vocals. A huge amount of layered guitar tracking, which has been carefully bathed in reverb, creates the atmosphere and the track boasts very nice melodic twists and turns. There’s absolutely no question as to whether or not this is a shoegaze record – it is. ‘Swirly’ harks uncannily back to My Bloody Valentine, and following track ‘Starrsha’, to the happier, lighter days of Sonic Youth.
This is band that unquestionably wears its influences on its sleeve, with ‘Some Kind of Sad’ glancing back to 80s northern new wave, or a poppier version of what artists such as The Soft Moon are producing at the moment. Although there’s no doubting that this group can put together a strong melody, theirs is a musical path well trodden. That said, and although the sonic influences of different groups can be picked out on almost every track, it doesn’t make this any less of an enticing record. It’s charming and it’s gripping, it’s full of energy and listening to this band of Texans is nothing less than an enjoyable experience.
‘Summertime’ is a reverb-laden, discordant song where bassist Alex Gehring’s light yet lovelorn vocals lead the track through sultry chord progressions and build ups. The stand out track is the closer, ‘Your Town’ with Gehring once again taking charge of the vocals, whilst heavily manipulated guitars create a swirling backdrop, held together by gentle, minimal percussion.
Stripping all comparisons away, what we have in Sparkler is a very well crafted collection of songs. There’s no debating the talent of this threesome, and the variety of styles and energy captured in the tracks is really impressive. The problem is that every song sounds like somebody else’s, and that’s a difficult idea to remove when listening. For those amongst us that succeed in doing so, however, this is an accessible, hazy, sun soaked effort from a band that are having a great time doing what they do. There are glimmers of potential peeking out of every twist and turn of this record, but it feels as though Ringo Deathstarr haven’t yet quite found their own niche. As a summary of where this band have been, and a document of the roots that have nurtured them, this collection is very successful, but the lasting feeling upon switching this record off is that their best work is yet to come.