by Brian J. Audette
Despite a few stumbles, Desert Culture’s debut Silver Age sizzles with passion and promise, serving up sounds from the salad days of rock ‘n roll. Birthed by Daniel Vega and midwifed by Brett Thorne (both formerly of the post-hardcore dance punk outfit Zlam Dunk and atmospheric post rock band Tactics) Silver Age covers all new territory for the duo, eschewing the tight, technical compositions we’ve come to know them for and diving headlong into a bygone era of classic rock.
Silver Age wears its heart on its sleeve and its influences without shame, Vega claiming that he “wanted to recreate music from a lot of influences from the ’60’s and old garages and old movies and all of those things filtered through my mind.” The resulting songs would easily be at home on the airwaves of the early 60’s, emulating the pre-distortion, post-big band guitar-based sound of the time with a subtle layer of surf and a tinge of Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. As an intro to this selection of seven songs, “Salton Sea” says all you need to hear. Through the reverb of jangly guitars and the bright clatter of drums we’re transported to the coast where I half expect to see the cast of Beach Blanket Bingo cavorting on the sand below.
The following six songs unfold in a similar style, crisply produced, but maintaining that ’60’s garage patina whilst relating tales of love, lust, good times, and missed opportunities. It’s perhaps the universality of these themes that ground Silver Age in the present even though so much of the sound is a throwback to the past. While listening to it the sheen of classic rock emulation is definitely always present, but the sincerity of Desert Culture’s execution never allows Silver Age to veer into the realm of camp or irony. The only detractor amidst the polish and stability of the instrumentation, would be the vocals, which sometimes come off sounding a bit shaky or unrehearsed. Considering the whole package however it wasn’t enough to deter my enjoyment.
From the soulfully terse “Elgin Park” to the edginess of “Prodigal Son”’s hip slapping outro, Desert Culture has two feet firmly planted across a span of decades in a way that seems perfectly natural. Overall, Silver Age is a pleasant distraction of an album and a wonderful set of songs to start the summer to and having seen what Daniel and Brett have been capable of in the past I have no misgivings that given time and refinement, they’ll smooth out the few rough edges.
Brian Audette lives somewhere in Austin within a pillow fort made of broken dreams. He only comes out to see shows and buy beer. He has a surprisingly well maintained lawn and is using it to breed an army of attack mosquitoes with which to take over the world. Brian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @bjaudette.