The Gloria Record: Start Here (Arena Rock Recording Co.)

Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Chris Simpson is less bombastic than Bono, more direct than Thom Yorke. The list of bands bearing some influence from Radiohead continues to grow, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s crucial for such a band to prove they can use that influence and then make a stylistic imprint of their own. Austin’s The Gloria Record definitely succeed in doing so. Their debut full-length (after two little-noticed EPs) is titled Start Here, and it’s a very strong record. Besides early Radiohead, one can hear shades of the grandiosity of U2 and the catchy moodiness of the Smiths in the alternately soaring and introspective tunes on this album.

Songwriter/guitarist/vocalist Chris Simpson works his pipes to dramatic effect on these 10 compositions; he’s less bombastic than Bono, more direct than Thom Yorke. On “I Was Born in Omaha,” a great, pulsing slow-rocker with a long, hypnotic fadeout, he’s focused and emotive. “Ascension Dream” features melancholy piano chords over which Simpson sounds especially Yorke-like; electronic effects take over, and there’s an eerie organ passage that sounds like time itself has stopped, leaving one with a great sense of anticipation, until “The Overpass,” a slow, stately track with another powerful vocal, continues the mood. One of the best tunes is “My Funeral Party,” a bleak-sounding title but a captivating piece featuring a recurring guitar whine that slides up a major 7th, powerful percussion, and unmistakeably Bends-era Radiohead-type vocals. “The Immovable Motorist” sounds more U2-ish as well as somewhat lighter, although Simpson tells us, “And if you don’t feel lonely/Then you can’t feel anything at all.” The elegiac “Salvation Army” begins with ambient droning and the sound of a far-off piano, with electronically processed vocals, soft percussion, and exceptionally tasteful bass playing by Jeremy Gomez combining to create a mood of detached sadness, although the tune is a sonic pleasure. The record closes with “Ambulance,” a gorgeous, mostly acoustic piece in waltz time, with an innovative production, ghostly keyboards, and an aching vocal. Its mood lingers long after you hear it.

The Gloria Record is a band full of heart, creativity, and great songwriting/arranging instincts. Fans of richly textured, memorable indie-rock who are burned out on U2 and Radiohead should Start Here for a fresh alternative. This talented group has much to offer, and will likely just continue to get better over time.

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