Some records are just destined to be damned annoying. Not, in this case, for being part of an unfortunate avalanche of moany cack by some millennial bands at the moment – though New Jersey band Forth Wanderers certainly fit into that age bracket. No, this self-titled full debut fits into the irksome category because it’s so bloody good and they recorded it whilst off at college doing other stuff. It’s not even the day job yet this is a rather timeless American indy record and is quality of a high order.
Sub Pop feels such a natural home for the band with this startlingly accomplished record you have to keep reminding yourself how young the ex-highschool band are. Apparently, the release has come about from a gruelling series of shows at SXSW so it’s not too mortifying. They at least had to put a bit of elbow grease in – even if they were knocking up the songs by emails flying between from their respective colleges.
Broad touchstones for Forth Wanderers might be a little bit of Kim Deal-style vocals, maybe a little Tanya Donnely. The slightly morose but chugging and still powerful American songbook. Even a real reference to Black Francis and The Pixies is full whining mode – in the nicest possible sense. It’s the classic harmonised – and the harmonies really are beautiful – stateside guitar-pop. That combination of sometimes introverted, gritty and reflective but with a frothy surf of dreamy pop melodies rolling about on top. Surliness and stars is a fairly perennial but always effective combination.
What is really surprising is how fresh all this sounds. It may be easy to find references and fit songs like the swaggering highlight ‘Saunter‘ into the musical landscape but none of this sounds cynically curated or a pastiche. Perhaps unsurprisingly given their collective age of three and a half, there is a youthful vigour and innocence that flits around the glorious tunes. ‘Be My Baby‘ is a daftly simple song that nevertheless is dreamy in a way that surprises even the most jaded of ears.
Forth Wanderers have hit on something very special here. They’ve reinvigorated a genre whilst also not. It’s American guitar music. With a girl warbling along. Got some drums as well. And yet it still surprises and has a real beauty. A pleasure from start to end. No idea how they’ve pulled this off without it sounding like a dreary rehash but they have.
If only to cap the insouciant charm of this band, it turns out they are indeed named after a football team from the – not entirely local to them – arse end of Scotland. A question that has been troubling your writer whilst writing this review. “A name? Ah yes, we better get one before unleashing our product on the world. Get on Wiki and find us a junior sports club outside Glasgow. That’ll do it, cheers“.
A peach of a record with a host of alarmingly effortless attractions.