Herzog, Boys

Steven Hyden

By Steven Hyden

on 05.20.14 in Reviews

Cleveland “subtlety-free rock” band Herzog has toiled unceremoniously over the course of several years and two decently-received records, including 2012′s snotty Cartoon Violence. With the new Boys, Herzog lunges for greatness and nearly grasps it with a collection of rambunctious, hard-riffing songs addressing the possibility that the band members’ rambunctious, hard-riffing days might soon be behind them.

Lunging for greatness and nearly grasping it

With songwriting responsibilities shared by singer-guitarist Nick Tolar and lyricist Tony Vorell, Herzog specializes in juxtaposing gregarious, fuzzed-up guitar-rock that plays like a call to arms with lyrics that thoughtfully unpack how being in band starts to feel a little silly by the end of your 20s. “More and more as I grow old/and nobody sings my songs/ it’s harder to keep believing,” Tolar sings on “Mad Men” over a crunchy guitar/synth sundae that triangulates “The Blue Album,” Siamese Dream, and classic rock radio. Herzog nod again to Weezer on “Teenage Metalhead,” a wised-up update of “In the Garage” where the kid’s rock-star fantasies become run-down bar-band reality. “We gotta practice, gotta hit the road/ ’cause Georgia don’t like death metal/ and if you can’t leave town/ you better quit the band right now.”

Boys is the latest in a boomlet of great recent guitar-centric LPs that would’ve once been situated at the center of indie rock but now get slotted somewhere between emo and pop-punk. (See also Modern Baseball’s You’re Gonna Miss It All, Tony Molina’s Dissed and Dismissed, Cheap Girls’ Famous Graves, and You Blew It!’s Keep Doing What You’re Doing, among others.) “Hey you indie rockers/ is everybody in?” Tolar snarks at the start of Boys‘ first track, “Full Stick,” perhaps acknowledging how bands like Herzog seem to get marginalized at the moment. But Herzog gives Boys a hearty third-album push regardless, with sharp songs powered by guitars strong enough for Budokan but made for the local VFW hall.