September 27, 2001

Golden Boys

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I’ve often wondered what it would be like if Radiohead were to write fiction. Would they write about people or places or little androids that blink instead of talk? For sure, the band’s prose would be guarded, never revealing too much. And even an autobiographical account would have enough blinks and bleeps to make the androids happy.

Certainly, Radiohead’s offer to Alabama-based quintet Remy Zero to be an opening act for the legendary Brit rockers, spawned at least a page in the autobiography of the relatively unknown band. Maybe the offer even sparked an entire album — but to be sure, it made them very, very happy.

For Remy Zero, fiction incorporates biography and comes in the form of a four-inch disc that bursts with style. From its outset, The Golden Hum subtly dazzles with mysterious moments laced neatly between ambiance and hooks.

Hum’s first track, the disc’s namesake, forecasts the give-and-take upon which Remy Zero builds its third album. But Cinjun Tate’s vocals, one of the best weapons in the band’s formidable arsenal, doesn’t appear at all. Yet the song builds bottom-up from an open-mic crackle, to a moody electric guitar, to the reassuring strings that ground it all. With tension slowly easing and dissonance yielding to accessibility, the song culminates with a brief detonation of electric catchiness that leaves the listener wanting much more of the same. The next 10 tracks deliver nothing short of an impulse to lunge for the repeat button.

But the album’s offering is not only the sum of its songs. The underlying fairytale of Remy Zero, as if personified, dances through the chords and lyrics. The Golden Hum spins the story of a man — or perhaps a band or just a concept — that waits and searches for fame and recognition, only to find that his desires have been caught underfoot, and tripped over. On the rock-oriented “Bitter,” Tate wails, “Bitter/ Just one more day when it’s already been too long.”

The cover art, with a mother’s gaze upon her baby obstructed by a blinding blur, speaks to the confusion, mixed emotions, and strange sense of attachment that the band has to its music, its album, and its creative process. The band basks in its art, yet at the same time they are sad that they’ve completed it, as if proudly but unwillingly leaving it behind.

On the radio-ready, acoustic “Perfect Memory,” for example, Remy Zero explores the loss of creation as stylishly and operatically as U2 explores the loss of youth; “With Sundays and the Mondays gone you’d say/ With all your little songs that meant everything to me/ And I remember you.”

Neither overly lyrical nor overly musical, The Golden Hum is a testament to a rare writing practice. The band explains that it has no “writer” per se. Each song is crafted slowly as a work in progress, with little bits added along the way. Fortunately, we’ve caught this Alabama-based quintet’s sound at a ready, not overly ripe time. In fact, Hum’s riddle, though not unraveled, is most fully recognized on the song “Out/In,” an album highlight. “I wait/ I’m fine here I could wait/ I wait till you get here/ Just be the sound I have always known you are/ Perfect sound you’re perfectly clear.”

Archived article by Ari Fontecchio