A Social Death Wish
Feat. Wild Moccasins, Young Mammals, Young Girls, Bagheera
Feb 8 at 9
300 Westheimer Rd.
Indie-pop quintet Wild Moccasins has been a standout part of Houston’s music landscape since they appeared in 2009. Just back from a tour in support of psych-pop band Of Montreal, on Saturday Wild Moccasins hosts “A Social Death Wish,” a release party for their new album 88 92. Best of all, the party—named after a lyric in their new song “Full-Time Fetish”—is free. Supporting Wild Moccasins at the party are the Houston bands Young Mammals and Young Girls, and a DJ set by Houston chillwave producer Bagheera, who brings disco-influenced dance music that fits the venue—the venerable new-wave oasis Numbers.
Wild Moccasins’ first full-length album, 2011’s Skin Collision Past, abounded with the youthful lightness of mid-aughts indie-pop contemporaries like Belle & Sebastian and Rilo Kiley, using poppy melodies to blanket the brooding urgency of songs like “Born Blonde” and “Psychic China” that explore alienation and regret. On 88 92 (released Feb. 4 on New West), Wild Moccasins draws on the familiar frenetic, echoing guitar lines and soaring vocal performances of their earlier releases, along with engrossing and insistent rhythms. The resulting songs feel more substantial, exploring topics like lyricist/guitarist Cody Swann’s visits with his mother in a psychiatric ward (in the noisy swirl of title song “Eighty-Eight Ninety-Two”) or singer/keyboardist Zahira Gutierrez’s struggles with anxiety (“Soft Focus”). The weight doesn’t slow the Moccasins down at all, though. Drama explodes on the new album, with raucously shouted choruses in songs like “Eye Makeup” and “Emergency Broadcast” displaying the Moccasins’ developing poise and assurance.
The hooks on this album are huge, and Gutierrez swaggers across them as though she could do this in her sleep. On “Emergency Broadcast,” jangling guitars and an undeniable, driving bass give Swann and Gutierrez room to trade lines full of affected boredom and increasingly frantic yelps. Gutierrez’s vocabulary of sighs, moans, and pants chew a manic edge into the tight, ’80s-influenced songs. Wild Moccasins combines beautifully orchestrated nervous energy with obliquely personal lyrics, and on 88 92 they’ve successfully refined their formula to produce their catchiest, most urgent songs yet.
Young Mammals plays fast-paced blown-out garage rock that revels in its own noise. Their last full-length was 2010’s Carrots, which opens with the psychedelic speed-bag exercise “Confetti,” and follows with songs ranging from energetic romp “Dragon Wagon” to hazy ballad “The Man In The Cannon.” Last November saw the release of the single “Build A House,” which balances jet-engine guitar riffs and crashing cymbals over an insistent, metronomic beat. Rock ’n’ roll was never meant to think hard, and Young Mammals demands that you put down the lyric sheet and shout along, even if you don’t know the words. The band’s next album, Alto Seco, is slated for release in May, and if it’s as buoyant as Carrots they’ll deserve to garner an enthusiastic audience.
Young Girls plays energetic, reverb-laden rock that feels like it comes from an earlier era, with bouncy guitar lines, simple, sing-song lyrics, and cooing backing harmonies. Their brash sound can be heard in songs like “Animals” and “Lil Darlin,’” whose propulsive rhythms and shout-along choruses beg for a wider audience. In January, they released their first, self-titled LP, which showcases the band at their most infectious, with catchy, guitar-led melodies and echo-laden vocals that make it impossible to stand still. The LP’s single, “Caroline” is a two-minute slice of straightforward rock straight from the early ’60s. The whole four-song release comes in well under ten minutes, making it easy to digest and leaving the listener wanting more.
2014 is already shaping up as a great year for the Houston music scene. New bands like Deep Cuts (mariachi rock), Subsonic Voices (industrial noise), and BLSHS (ethereal synthpop) are set to release albums, while hometown favorites like Featherface (psych rock), The Suffers (big band soul), and The Tontons (garage rock) prepare for their own new releases. Coming on the heels of the attention Houston received last year for our high quality of life, low cost of living, and surprisingly (to those not paying attention, anyway) hip culture, this glut of promising young bands looks like the bumper crop that follows a careful planting season. Now that they’ve returned from their tour, Wild Moccasins are ready to share the newly ripened fruits of their labor with their hometown audience.