|The Western States
Trouble in the Union
by Devon McReynolds
With a sound similar to that of fellow Pacific northwesterners Modest Mouse, the Western States combine odd distortion, upbeat guitar melodies, and earnest, heartfelt vocals to produce typical indie rock. But the main difference between the two is the latter’s lack of precision on debut LP Trouble in the Union.
Opening track “Hills of CA” starts off with thick, head-bobbing drumming accentuated by space age-y effects; slow and mellow, but interesting nonetheless. About two minutes in though, the song kicks into pop-punk mode, still capturing the indie elements. Clocking in at over seven minutes long, though, everything that made the song special drags on and blends together. On “Baby Monsoons,” the mellow guitar and first line, “Summer is over” set a melancholy tone, but after the listener gets into that mindset, the heavier, upbeat guitars starts up again. Once again though, the song drags on about three minutes too long, as do following tracks “Private Lewis” and “Ballad of Lost Explorers.” “Union Forever” showcases the political side of The Western States with the line, “There’s trouble in the Union,” the album title’s namesake. Despite the provocative lyrics and message that follows, the melody is flat, monotonous, and repetitive. We hear the use of unconventional machine-like noises again in “When Broken Machines Equal Broken Hearts,” but that’s about the most interesting thing musically about this track. Countrified “The Rambler” has the strongest melody on the album, but it is simply just too long.
The Western States certainly have potential as demonstrated by creative songwriting and their ability to crossover into different musical genres, and they are obviously putting a lot of effort into what they’re doing. But, the lengthy songs are not appropriate for what they’re trying to achieve and only serve as a hindrance to their budding talents.