For the past few months, fans of local noisepop group Heartthrob have had to rely on the band’s seemingly bi-weekly performances and a pair of grainy Bandcamp recordings to get their fix. Heartthrob’s kinetic live act has earned the band a following, so it’s fitting that its first proper release should capture that same energy. Love Efficient is six songs recorded live on WMSE in June: a satisfying collection of dark pop, noisy guitars and a no-bs rhythm section.
The EP opens with a thorny wall of feedback from Scott Anderson’s guitar – the instrument responsible for the watery, reverberating squall that has become Heartthrob’s trademark sound. Enter the insistent drumming of Ash Goodwin; the smooth throb of Alicia Shatley’s bass guitar; and, finally, Christian Abler’s faded, jangly rhythm guitar, and “Wet Summer” is moving. All six tracks share this restless forward motion, propelled by drums and bass and jet age guitar sounds.
“Billy” features a screeching guitar line that could make The Edge blush; “Just A Second” has the album’s catchiest vocal hook; and “Technique” sees the rhythm section at its most muscular. Closing track “BBR” – the EP’s longest by over a minute – has become a staple at live shows with its dramatic, spiraling outro.
All the songs sound the same, but deliberately so, in a way that makes them cohesive and immersive: Taking off the headphones after “BBR” is like surfacing from a dream. In addition to nailing a very specific sound – a hazy, melodic nostalgia with concrete pop sensibility – Anderson’s lyrics could all have been lifted from the diary of the same heartbroken teenager. The fact that you can hear them, clear and unadorned, is refreshing – words like “nostalgia” and “dreamy” too often mean “lots of reverb.” Anderson’s voice is interesting, too. It cuts through the clouds of guitar with palpable disgust, and sometimes it sounds like he’s literally spitting out his words in angst.
On Love Efficient, Heartthrob’s energy is bottled in a nearly perfect 20 minutes of pop. The band gets away with not taking very many risks – the songs are short, catchy and inarguably good. A proper full-length studio recording down the road might allow more time for the band to perfect some of the atmospheres and textures they’re working with here. Until then, Love Efficient will tide me over.