This Is Not the End

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Norwegian indie rock trio Spielbergs specialize in a particularly bombastic brand of fuzzed-out power pop and post-punk. Made up of several Oslo scene stalwarts -- Mads Baklien (vocals/guitar), Stian Brennskag (bass), and Christian Løvhaug (drums) -- who had all enjoyed some modicum of success in previous bands ranging in style from indie folk to post-hardcore, the band coalesced in 2016 with little ambition except to get out of the house once a week and have fun playing rock music together. Having already cut a handful of unnamed demos, one of which bore the placeholder title "The Spielberg Song" -- after a recent viewing of the American director's classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind -- a friend suggested they just name the band Spielbergs and call it done. In a somewhat ironic twist, given how casually they came together, the band's 2018 EP, Distant Star, quickly earned international buzz and critical accolades for its melding of harsh noisy textures and sublime pop catchiness. Two of that EP's five tracks, "We Are All Going to Die" and "Distant Star," also appear here on This Is Not the End, Spielbergs' 2019 full-length debut. Underneath a thin slacker-rock veneer lies a smart band who are as adept at pure, raw power as they are with the kind of wistful melodicism of someone like Teenage Fanclub. Filtered through a staticky post-punk aesthetic, this push and pull informs much of This Is Not the End, which veers from warmly exaltant power pop cuts like "4AM" to wall-of-noise epics like "Not for Long," both of which benefit from strong harmonies and sweet tunes. The surprisingly pretty "McDonald's (Please Don't Fuck Up My Order)" coasts on cerebral waves of slowly building atmospherics and twin guitar/synth lines. "Sleeper" is another slower cut with acoustic Elliott Smith tones and a lo-fi experimental bent. On this very nice debut, Spielbergs are a tough band to pigeonhole, boasting quality writing and a hooky approach that transcends whatever sonic space they occupy at a given moment.

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