Album Review – Vs. California by Semi Trucks (2021) (Meritorio Records)
Since their inception in 2017, Meritorio Records have bludgeoned their way to within to among the best jangle-pop oriented labels, with a passion for the music that has seen them release virtually every nuance of the genre, across a back catalogue that now spans over 30 releases.
Brendan Sepe’s, Los Angeles based, Semi Trucks solo project (to all intents and purposes he sings and plays most things on Vs. California apart from when his sense of meticulous, decrees otherwise) sees the aforementioned ‘virtually’ crossed, they jump headlong into the fractious, playful, usually obtuse world, of all things jangly 80s indie-pop and C86 with this Vs. California album.
The most obviously weird on the album and for many, the most brilliant, is undoubtedly Amused, Where There’s No Ceiling and this Song is Dedicated To Yoko. These tracks grab hold of the Television Personalities coattails and add a melancholy baritone to the aesthetic, that is reminiscent of the recent sound that Painter Man Records act, The Smashing Times has been excelling within of late. Sepe augments everything with the hazy, slight psyche-pop persuasions, that often surface with the best of lo-fi production..
The melancholy continues, but shifts towards Marine Research, Talulah Gosh (Amelia Fletcher in general) vocal sweetness, as Kennedy Cusato and Desiree Sabri course a feminine touch through 13th Floor and Hope respectively. Certainly the most beautiful tracks on the album, they nevertheless still never lose that intriguing sense of obtuse.
There are moments on the album when the tempo increases and a sense of C86 playfulness is layered upon the core dankness. This is best heard in Motorbike Riding Star and Thank You, which are all ramshackle jangly riffs and incessant tempos, in the same manner as The Pastels and The Shop Assistants gifted the world.
Semi Trucksis unlikely to be the best seller that Meritorio Records ever release. However, if they cared about that sort of thing they would not have released it. As alt.jangle-pop fans, lets hope they remain comfortble among such shining weirdness !