Album: High/Low - Cyclops


Category: Surf Rock


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Reviewed by: Harris Escalante

HIGH/LOW is a fuzz-centric grunge band formed by Steve Weston in 2011. What started out as a demo project has flourished into a decade’s worth of rich 90’s influenced rock and power pop music. The band takes nods from great acts like Weezer and Dinosaur Jr., while incorporating the songwriting philosophy of Guided by Voices – one that favors recording time and quantity of songs over touring. As such you’ll find their discography stacked with more tracks per release that consists of songs that are quick to burn but never lacking for consistency or quality. 

Their latest Cyclops is no different. Here we find sunny melodic songs such as “Survive the Crash” and “I Gotta Go”. Infectious at every turn with a heavy dose of fuzz. HIGH/LOW’s mastery of using distortion to elevate instead of drown out their sweet and effective songwriting shines through with every track. They take the best ideas during the 90’s to form a version of alt rock that’s entirely their own. A kind of power pop that’s equally balanced with its grunge elements. Fans of both styles will find a great middle ground here, especially to those who grew up in that era.

The quick-fire nature of songs in this album also lends itself well to the multitude of styles that the band sinks their teeth into. “Slackers” gives of a subtle stoner vibe with its hazy textures and more laid-back vocal delivery while “It’s a Good Thing” adds a bit of jangly riffwork to add bright colors to its otherwise heavy guitar soundscape. One particular standout here is “Surf Cops Theme”. An instrumental that meshes familiar elements like surf rock and psychedelia with a heavy dose of pop fuzz. It’s like tasting one of those outrageous soda flavors like cucumber and candy corn, weird but irresistible. 

Other highlights include “Ape Suit”, which has a swirling psychedelic melody that feels disorienting in it’s ooze of rich power chords. “Slow Motion Runner” features sharp and abrasive textures that would have felt jarring–if not for its explosive melodies and it’s cool-as-ice vocal filter. The closer “Glasgow” is one of the more elaborate and emotionally rich songs here. The guitars are extra heavy, like a sharper Nirvana with cooler vocals. The chorus is especially catchy, one that is layered with chunky sounds to perfection and is surely a live banger once shows are up and safe again.

HIGH/LOW is a band you should check out. These Essex-based rockers can give you a fresh perspective on rock with an easier curve to enjoyment. Cyclops is available via Spotify, Bandcamp and Instereo Records.

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