Style and substanceGiant Drag - Hearts and Unicorns
(Kick Ball Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Sept. 13, 2005
Review by Tony BonyataConsidering that the first song ever recorded by Los Angeles-based band Giant Drag was a cover of Journey's "Who's Crying Now?" it might seem odd that their first full-length album Hearts and Unicorns sounds so refreshingly hip.
At the core of this band is vocalist / guitarist Annie Hardy and drummer Micah Calabrese, who originally met back in 2001. Four years later and the two are still performing as a duo - if you don't count Calabrese's left hand, adding the bass lines from his Roland SH09 synthesizer, as their third bandmember.
On their twelve-song debut the duo successfully resuscitate some the best elements of mid-'90s alternative rock, evoking the likes of My Bloody Valentine's fuzzy guitar decoupage, the angst-ridden vocals of P.J. Harvey and, at times, even the punch of Pixies and Nirvana.
Starting things off with a bang, Giant Drag opens with the indelible pop song "Kevin Is Gay," complete with an absolutely unavoidable melody, before injected a lucid acoustic guitar and heavenly vocals into the more introspective number "Cordial Invitation." On the dirty dirge "High Friends in Places," the duo also adds a thick back slab of Black Sabbath to the number, before the drawn-out build of "Smashing" eventually swells into a psychedelic slowburn.
While much of Hearts and Unicorns is built around style (with walls of washed-out guitars and detached vocals), the duo have thankfully not forgotten to also add substance, as proved on the pop-laced beauties "This Isn't It," "Slayer" and "Kevin Is Gay."
With a strong debut album brimming with pop hooks and sweet vocals doing the backstroke in a pool of shimmering guitars, Giant Drag are anything but.
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