Band of the Day

2012.06.29

Grooms

Dark, enchanting noise pop from a Brooklyn trio obsessed with The Smiths
17, is my whole world. In my room, The Smiths and girls.
lyrics from Prom

Not many bands can boast having met on one of the grandfather’s of social networking sites, Friendster. However, Travis Johnson (vocals/guitar) and Emily Ambruso (vocals/bass), two of the Brooklyn rock trio--Grooms, met on the once thriving social juggernaut. Jim Sykes (drums) completed the trio in 2009 after former member Gabriel Wurzel left the group, when they were still known as Muggabears. Grooms’ debut album, Rejoicer, was released in 2009 and focused lyrically on Johnson’s religious-fixated obsessive-compulsive disorder. In July 2011 the band released Prom, which on their label’s website, is said to be about freedom. While, Prom is meant to be catchier it still maintains the band’s signature shoegaze, electronic, 90’s rock infused sound, reminiscent of the days of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

With every new decade comes a nostalgic remembering of the past. For years now, bands have been mining the sounds of the '80s and '90s—synthpop, shoegaze, grunge, you name it—but it's almost to the point where memories of the aughts will be borrowed in the same vein. Brooklyn noise-pop trio Grooms know a little bit about recent nostalgia; singer/guitarist Travis Johnson met bassist/vocalist Emily Ambruso on the long gone social network Friendster. The band's sound, however, is a straight mix of the best parts of the past 30 years of alternative rock: bursts of noisy, detuned fuzz from peak era Sonic Youth; the headstrong rush of My Bloody Valentine; the snaky woven guitar tapestry of Polvo. The band’s most recent album is even titled Prom—a direct nod to high school, yes, but also an apt description of what to expect. Prom is formal and sincere, yet there’s something awkward and maybe even a little dramatic at how well Grooms reminds the listener of their favorite bands. The record opens on a dark note: “Tiger Trees” is full of skittering electronic percussion and a foreboding cloud of distortion as Johnson sings “I want you to believe my name.” Both “Prom” and “Imagining the Bodies” ride some heavy low-end stomp before blooming into intricate guitar workouts. Johnson isn’t afraid to hide his inspirations, namechecking The Smiths on “Prom” and taking to the band’s blog to pour over favorite lyrics by Morrissey, Guided By Voices, and Smog. He’s also not afraid to save some of Grooms’ best material for the end; “Sharing” features Ambruso on lead vocals and is both the records shortest and catchiest track, and closer “3D Voices” might as well be the groups thesis statement, with one of the better guitar breakdowns this side of Daydream Nation. The song is almost two-faced in its blunt directness (just try not to break something jumping around to the frantic last minute) and the obscure obliqueness of the lyrics. Grooms are a band that is both modern and vintage—ideal for people who grew up on Friendster and those too old or too young to get the reference.