Labels mean nothing and anyone not marketing music for profit or over the age of twenty five realizes that. Grown Up Avenger Stuff plays what press and record companies called “alternative rock” in the 1990’s, but now they are likely considered by many to be a “post rock” act or any number of other self-aggrandizing misnomers tastemakers stretch to wantonly apply. Grown Up Avenger Stuff is four musicians singing, playing guitar, bass, and drums respectively. They play songs centered on loud guitar tracks veering between melodic and pummeling. They are a rock band, nothing more, nothing less, and convince listeners of that from the first moments of Eclectica.
Songs like “Brother” are written, in part, to convince. This is an authoritative stomper intent on stunning listeners into submission while still provoking a response. Guitarist John Thomsen exhausts himself with a basketful of riffing and lead runs played with finger-blistering abandon while his sons Hunter and Tyler push him harder with their dynamic rhythm section work. Deirdre Kroener has her vocals set to kill and belts out vague, despairing drama behind the lyrics with a clarity additional verbal detail might have never provided. “Wasting the Light” glides past listeners with considerably more finesse than “Brother”, but it’s simply a different in imaginative application. There are numerous sections throughout the track when the band weaves the same visceral power merely employed in a different way. Thomsen’s guitar combusts again on the massive “Love Please”, a heart-mangled blues burning with energy. Kroener sings like someone in the fight of their emotional life and never relents from her fierce, uncompromising bellow for even a single syllable.
“Vision” is a clenched fist punk rock wail with a mean attitude. Kroener commands the track despite the band’s brawling riff. Thomsen and his sons sound like a trio looking for a fight. The bridge is particularly excellent here thanks to its exhilarating shift back into the song’s primary riff. “Tell Me” shares common sonic and thematic areas with “Love Please” differ in one important respect. The former has lost any sense of decorum still found in the earlier track and, instead, one gets the feeling that the narrator is already on their emotional knees. It is, in certain respects, a much sadder song. “What You Are” thankfully shifts the mood of the album’s second half. No Grown Up Avenger Stuff song can ever be accused of unambiguous happiness, but the guitar in this song has a brighter quality contrasting nicely with much of the Sturm and Drang surrounding the final half of the album.
by Jeff Ritter
In Short Words
Criteria - 90%
Eclectica is an impressive effort from one of the genre’s most talented practitioners. This band has progressed far beyond their once regional stardom on the merits of their songwriting and commitment to entertaining audiences. Grown Up Avenger Stuff can rock alongside the best working today and have untold future promise.