Does anyone else recall an album by the name of Hooray For Now that briefly peaked its head above water in 1998? It wasn’t heard by many, but the few who did fell absolutely in love with its delicate song structure painted by big loud penetrating guitars. The band, Viva Voce, disappeared then began reemerging a few years later with an affinity towards the indie and eclectic with the records Lovers Lead the Way and The Heat Can Melt Your Brain. These kitchen made (literally—the band posted photos on their webpage of amps in ovens and the like) records raised the eyebrows of the elite and garnished the attention of Barsuk Records, who, after recently losing their flagship band, Death Cab For Cutie, were in the market for some new talent. Viva Voce was swept up faster than you can ask how to correctly pronounce their name (Vee-vah-VOH-chay) and immediately broke out the home recipe book for their new record Get Yr Blood Sucked Out.
Viva Voce—husband and wife Anita and Kevin Robinson—have changed lanes, maybe merged lanes works better, from their darling oddity space pop to a more impassioned, classically influenced, loud, raucous, guitar-driven sound. The band has crafted songs with Anita’s angry guitar feuding with Kevin’s droning rhythms, creative song structure and piano medleys garnished with the couple’s sweet yet eerie vocals, drawing inspiration from Pink Floyd, Queen, David Bowie, the Who and similar sounds of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s guitar rock. But with so many influences, it is at points difficult to assess if this record is a creative accomplishment or a creative homage. The album evokes one of two actions: repeat listens or digging out your old favorites and listening to them instead. Neither of which is necessarily a negative option for the listener—but might be for Viva Voce.
The album opener, “I’m a Believer Now,” is a romping declarative chant played to a militant beat and with pleasant, loud, guitar solo interruptions. The very next track, one of the best songs on the record, “When Planets Collide,” begins with the audible sound of Anita plugging in her guitar before ripping into the song’s foreboding main riff. This song showcases some of the band’s best work on the album when, at minute 27, the distorted riff dies out and, after a brief dramatic pause, is replaced by a simple naked guitar walk up. The couple then delicately builds up, achieving one of the most dynamic accomplishments on the record. “So Many Miles,” at 8 minutes plus, is a gratuitous yet adventurous guitar tangent a bit reminiscent, but not as inspired, of Wilco’s “Spiders (Kidsmoke).” It makes for excellent driving music.
The Robinsons twist a tale of revenge and spite into a mantra driven epic ballad tenaciously titled “We Do Not F*** Around.” Kevin takes the lead and sorely explains his plans of redemption over campy piano chords until the pause, and then the soft-spoken couple declares to their invisible adversaries the songs titular line. Not an instant classic or Top-40, but this song definitely reveals the band’s boldness and inventiveness.
The record’s b-side isn’t as strong as the later half, but is easily redeemed by “Helicopter.” Beginning with a groovy bass line and quickly followed by zoning drums, the song frames the combination of the Viva Voce’s spacey tendencies with Anitia’s louder guitar grooves from “Hooray For Now.” The record closes with the nicely composed “How to Nurse a Bruised Ego (Back to Health),” once again reminding us of how pleasant Anita’s voice is paired with a piano and guitar.
Although Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is brimming with pop sensibilities, the band can still be classified as unconventional—a nice fit for the Barsuk roster. The new record promises a musical evolution without leaving behind the quirks that first drew us to Viva Voce.