Wye Oak, Civilian

Andrew Mueller

By Andrew Mueller

on 02.15.11 in Reviews

Had they formed in Britain 20 years ago, it would have been easy to categorize Wye Oak. The frail, vague fuzz-heavy pop conjured by Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner is irresistibly evocative of the groups who trailed in the immediate wake of My Bloody Valentine: As such, Wye Oak would have seemed obvious company and kin of Slowdive, Chapterhouse and Pale Saints.

Something treasurably strange and anomalous, with soundscapes containing multitudes

In a different time, and on a different continent, the Baltimore duo come across as something treasurably strange and anomalous. Civilian, Wye Oak's third full-length, is obviously a work conceived in thrall to My Bloody Valentine's "Holy Holy," "Hot As Day" and the title track especially. However, Wye Oak are too clever and too restless to be content with pastiche-mongering, and warp the bedrock MBV influence with a taste for post-punk garage rock that occasionally evokes R.E.M. ("Two Small Deaths", "Dog Eyes") and a flickering tendency towards gothic folk (the lovely, mournful closing track, "Doubt").

"Civilian" is an album which demands attention and effort from the listener. For all that Wye Oak's music verges on abstract, with the vocals mostly buried deep in these sumptuous squalls of guitar, "Civilian" is not intended — and wouldn't work as background noise. Wye Oak's soundscapes contain multitudes.