Garage rock is one of those more amorphous genre tags that nevertheless has a very identifiable sound to it. You might not be able to describe what it is exactly beyond fuzzy guitars, generally lo-fi production, and punchy, catchy songs, but you know what it is when you hear it. It’s not a style I’m totally enamored with as oftentimes the stripped-down approach comes off as a bit too facile and simple, trying to make up for a lack of depth and with immediacy and charismatic energy. Hailing from Los Angeles, Meatbodies are proving to be an exception to the rule for me, though most of that stems from their evolving way beyond simple garage into something far more interesting and fun.
While their 2014 self-titled debut is a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable slab of thick garage rock with some psychedelic flourishes and other touches thrown in, it’s their follow-up to that in Alice that’s really caught my attention. Right from the get-go, the cover art is dripping in the kind of a e s t h e t i c meant to grab your attention, or possibly revolt you depending on how you feel about these things. Alice is bright, loud, trippy, and positively packed to the gills with big guitar hooks and melodies. Though the sonic framework of garage is still audible, the album is far more indebted to the glam rock of Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie and psych-pop of the period, filtered through the thick guitars of Black Sabbath and more. Intro track “The Burning Fields” sets the mood with guitar muck that leads into “Kings,” which immediately hits you with bright Ziggy chords and spacey adventure. The Bowie influence is undeniable throughout – it’s pretty impossible to hear the beginning of “Count Your Fears” and not envision Bowie’s Major Tom counting down to blastoff – but it’s surrounded by enough originality and other influences that it doesn’t come off as a simple knock-off.
There’s also plenty of more modern sounds and similarities running throughout Alice, such as the mischievously fun stoner-alt of Rated R-era Queens of the Stone Age on the title track and “Creature Feature,” the poppy sludge metal of Torche on “Count Your Fears” and “Haunted History,” and even the touches of early Tame Impala when they were content with just being a kickass psych rock band on tracks like “Scavenger.” The entire album is a trip, one that’s led to this being one of the my favorite and least expected releases of the year thus far. You can pick up the album now through In The Red or stream it on Spotify/Apple Music/Google Music.