Have you ever wished that instead of listening to the glamorous, polished, and manicured artists of the pop world, you could get your pop with a side of dirt thrown in the ears? If yes, cue Alvvays. The band was created by one-time high school pals, all of whom are committed to gritty pop and morbidly afraid of google searches like this.
Besides mostly benign but sometimes avvkvvard smalltalk, Alvvays performed a loud and cheery-on-the-surface set at Brighton Music Hall dominated by tunes from their self-titled debut and sprinkled with covers and songs from their next venture. Although their songs were peppy, Alvvays crafted a deliberately deformed sound. Their pep was never without some white noise, some sound lurking underneath the chords, dotting otherwise glossy compositions with goose pimples. This style perhaps works better when the listener can adjust the volume, but Alvvays seemed to consider deformation and unabashed loudness complementary.
The band found its pocket with gravelly, perky open chords and sustained, smooth vocals. Piercing riffs and cushioning melodies made for a tasteful juxtaposition, not unlike soft slices of avocado placed on crispy strips of bacon.
Hooks dominated the most popular songs, including “Archie, Marry Me,” “Adult Diversion,” and “Atop a Cake.” They nestled in the heads of the audience, all of whom, for the most part, were eager ear worm hosts. Or at least they seemed eager, evidenced by the ferocity at which they sang along and their furrowed brows, undoubtedly asking why Archie wouldn’t want to marry a blossoming and appropriately awkward pop star.
Alvvays’s engine ran on happy and sappy refrains swirling in a backdrop of reverb, dirt, jangly riffs, charming progressions, and occasional (and much appreciated) dissonance.
Everyone wore white sneakers as part of a hipster uniform that gave them the look of toddlers. Toddlers, that is, who are ready for marital commitment. The guitarist, Alec O’Hanley, was particularly visually stimulating. He frequently fronted murderous scowls and apathetic gazes while he moved his body in a perpetual slide. First his arms would slither, then his torso would wiggle, and finally his feet would step like a discontented rattler if it had legs, feet, and the ability to play the guitar. Rather than warning potential predators of his venomous bite, however, O’Hanley wrangled with his six-string in a symphony of distortion to warn potential groupies of his angst. It only made him all the more desirable.
The other four members of the group (on vocals, drums, bass, and keyboards) weren’t as reptilian but made endearing grins and wore shirts that seemed to say, “this person has personality, even if Archie doesn’t think so.” After he listens to more of their dirty pop, however, I would imagine that he will change his mind.
- Very loud