Wow & Flutter

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Wow & Flutter, the third album released by Gladhands, seems to take its cues from three sources: mid-'60s period Beach Boys, later-period Beatles and early Big Star. It would be difficult for a pop band to find three better musical sources. It could be argued, though, that it is difficult, at this point in the game, to add anything worthy to those band's legacies. Gladhands, however, finds plenty of untouched soil with which to craft an album of thrilling, full-throttle pop music. The guitar sounds on Wow & Flutter are straight out of the early '70s. The opening guitar riff from the album's first song, "Plastic Soul," would fit on Radio City perfectly, and songs such as "Destiny's Darling" and the instrumental "'70s Squareback" have the same big and shiny production value that made rock from the early '70s burst out of car radios. Some songs have dreamy synthesizer textures, and lazy acoustic guitars abound, while the vocals are slightly warbly in an Alex Chilton sort of way. Gladhands, however, is not exactly a retro act, and the album is not entirely grounded in the '70s aesthetic. "...As I Go Along" has a middle segment cut from a Beach Boys song circa Pet Sounds, and "Nocturnal Youth" is also propelled by a Beach Boys-type melody and intricate harmonies. Production-wise, Gladhands occasionally throws an instrumental monkey wrench into the music. Some of the songs are piano-based, and at various times, flute and horns enter the mix. Still, it is the early '70s that resounds. The rockers are clear and aggressive, with pounding drums and just the slightest hint of bombast. The ballads are gentle and somber. Something about Wow & Flutter, though, does not subscribe to the same arena-filling pretensions as did its early-'70s influences. The album is by turns intimate, powerful, and fun. [The CD was also released with bonus tracks.]

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