Froth have come a long way since their joke-band beginnings, weedy garage rock first album, and their initial foray into shoegaze on their 2014 album Bleak, which showed a great deal of promise with a batch of good songs and an impressively full sound. 2017's Outside (Briefly) cashes in on that potential and ends up sounding like a great lost shoegaze/dream pop/experimental rock album of the early '90s. Mixing the guitar overload of bands like My Bloody Valentine, the experimental nature of the Swirlies, and the hazy wistfulness of bands like Slowdive, Froth manage to ingest a ton of influences without sounding in thrall to any of them in particular. Lots of times on albums as stuck in the past as Outside (Briefly) is, the nostalgia factor weighs it down too much, the endless rounds of spot-the-influence make it impossible to actually enjoy the music as it happens, or the listener is so transported back in time that they'd rather listen to something old instead of the music Froth is making. None of that happens here. The band's leader JooJoo Ashworth never succumbs to hero worship or pastiche. He and his cohorts (guitarist Nick Ventura, drummer Cameron Allen, and bassist Jeremy Katz) mix and match sounds, styles, and approaches like masters, never allowing the album to get predictable or obvious. Tracks like "Passing" defy the listener to pin down exactly what's happening. It starts off as a raging shoegaze rocker that could have been lifted off an early Slumberland Records 45, then suddenly shifts into a droning Motorik jam where Ashworth and Ventura's guitars noodle and dance like hippie girls at a Phish concert. After a few minutes of zoning out, the song crashes back into life before ending in a blast of feedback. It's an exhilarating arrangement and serves notice that the band isn't about to be pinned down. They can do slow noise rock ballads ("Petals") that start off sparse and scattered sounding, with Ashworth's fragile vocals up front, then finish in waves of synth strings and organ swirls or do simple blown-out shoegaze ("Romance Distractions"). They nail both abrasive JAMC-sleek rockers ("New Machine") and fuzzy indie pop ("Sensitive Girl") with equal aplomb. Synth pop drones ("Contact") sound just as good as the songs that mix new wave melodies with noise pop guitars ("Show a Flower a Candle and It Grows"). Basically, everything Ashworth and crew try on Outside (Briefly) works a charm, sounding like the entire history of noisy indie pop wrapped up in one constantly surprising, effortlessly appealing ball of sound. Anyone who has a soft spot for sensitive pop songs played by loud guitars that are run through a ton of effects will want to check the album out. It may not make people forget the past mighty heroes of noise, but a few spins through Outside (Briefly) is enough to make room in the shoegaze/dream pop pantheon for Froth.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra