Diving Into Goodnight Gorillas
A review of Goodnight Gorillas’ new album Splash!
Splash! ricochets off Goodnight Gorillas’ last five albums, providing their most cohesive sound yet. The band is at their best with a clear production and tenacious tracks. Even though this album maintains Goodnight Gorillas’ DIY sensibilities, it’s bright and engaging. The nine tracks are incapable of sitting still, leaping up at unexpected times for choruses to arrive abruptly, all with a healthy amount of “doo doo doos” left to edge their way into the band’s more alternative style. The titular track is dynamic, peppy in sound and ill in lyrics, with vocalist and lead guitarist Joe Graves singing “the chemicals enter my skin and find where my depression lives.” “Splash” then suddenly rolls into the bashing drums of Connor Peck before its immediate end.
Splash! is lyrically boundless, shifting around doused in Millennial ennui. On “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” Graves mocks the older generation of down-turned noses singing “you’re awfully young to be selling your soul.” Unlike the alt rock bands before them, there’s more of a happy-go-lucky sense of humor to Splash! than there is a sense of debauchery. Goodnight Gorillas is rolling their eyes at themselves, whether it be the poor decision of getting a liberal arts degree or the fear of being sold a Hulu package. They leave listeners in a constant state of bemusement. The harmonies on tracks like “Make Out” (a bop for non-committal introverts) were designed for an audience sing-along as Graves finds time to do everything except perhaps the person interested in him. Even the most melancholic of listeners would be unable to keep their heads from nodding along to Splash! That isn’t to say that the album lacks introspection, it has a crisp 20/20 hindsight and reflects on many a missed (romantic) communication.
The recently released music video for “Three Words” depicts Graves beating a wifi router to the ground with a baseball bat after a seemingly innocuous argument with In Lieu’s Nikii Post about glitching (internet) connection. The song hinges around an unstable couple with shit internet, Graves defending the choice not to call Comcast with “I haven’t talked to a stranger in years.” Which is possibly more about anxiety than it is about being an easy sell. Though Splash! doesn’t come to an exact emotional conclusion it speaks plainly, giving you the idea that Goodnight Gorillas understands their pitfalls. On the plucky “Doctor” they regretfully croon “I should’ve realized the things I put you through/I should’ve realized what we were gonna do” before repeating “don’t get serious.” “Phase One” hits with gargantuan hooks as The Breakup Anthem of the album with Graves crying “I swear I’ll learn to bark like a good dog.” Here Splash! takes an emo-esque turn with Graves’ voice twisting into a squeak with a tense sincerity. Goodnight Gorillas throw their arms wide open to anyone with a convulsing heart. The band uses extreme volume and addictive riffs to distract from the nerves of living in uncomfortable skin. There is a tenderness that hovers right below the album as they mix dejected songwriting with polished melodies. Maybe it’s irresponsible for Goodnight Gorillas to make their heartbreak sound so damn catchy, maybe it’s just a Midwest nicety. Splash! is a testament to the band’s ability to make the bleak blinding. The album is constantly in motion, the sound both perfectionistic and distressed. It’s not uncommon for the labor pains of one album to be felt on their next, and Splash! is certainly proof of that as an album that feels especially worthy of the effort. After years of treading water Goodnight Gorillas finally jumped off the deep end. And they emerged with a fresh pulse.
Splash! is out everywhere tomorrow, August 6th.