Friday, July 25, 2014

Album Review: "Hedonism Colosseum" by Astro Cowboy

Astro Cowboy released "Hedonism Colosseum" on
July 13, 2014. Listen to it on their Bandcamp.
One of my favorite parts of the North Carolina music scene has always been the reciprocal qualities of its musicians. When someone makes a wave within the culture the ripples are felt for years to come, we've seen it with acts like Lost in the Trees, The Love Language, Megafaun and plenty more. Someone latches onto an interesting musical idea and it inspires a wash of creativity in countless musicians in the area. Lately Wilmington has seen a resurgence in its own music scene despite the closing of their marquee venue The Soapbox, perhaps it's that laundro-lounge sized void that's lead these acts' heightened sense of focus or maybe it's just something in the water. Either way it seems like bands like Museum Mouth sit atop the crew of these new, young and invigorated bands that have been coming out of the eastern part of the state. One of these young acts obviously influenced by Museum Mouth's pop-leaning punk tunes is Astro Cowboy, a duo of fresh out of high-school teens that display an unparalleled sense of intensity and veracity.

Hedonism Colosseum is the band's first full-length effort, but if nobody told you that you'd probably never be able to tell. Hedonism Colosseum feels like the reflections of a road-worn individual that's pawning over the days of his youth rather than one stuck in the middle of the most awkward, confusing times of most of our lives. Filled with bouts of self-loathing, introspection and hardened cynicism, Hedonism Colosseum bounces along with a surprising sense of optimism despite the somber lyricism. The album kicks off with the barnburner, "White Shoes," a track that's filled with as much pessimism and realization as it is cheerful, bouncing vibes. "White Shoes," much like the rest of the album, chronicles the bitter end of relationships that have been long worn down. "Nothing's gonna be the same, believe me that I want to change," sings vocalist/songwriter Travis Harrington, "but this change will be all in vain, like always I'm way too late," he continues. Harrington powers through a palatable sense of frustration and disappointment while churning out infectious melodies and danceable rhythms.

Most of Hedonism Colosseum continues on this same trajectory, it's filled with angst-driven lyrics that propel the listener back to high-school journal entries of loves long lost and things that could have been. But at the same time, the album isn't a total sadsack marathon, there's bits of humor and refreshing metaphors tucked into these tightly packed tracks. "Suntan" compares relationship problems to pale-skinned woes while "Big Blue" finds Harrington comparing his own frustrations to a shaken soda bottle. There's enough frenetic grievances to keep nervous rockers placated while the lyrical rawness and aural depth will keep the rest of listeners bobbing and swaying along to the relatable, yet intensely personal subject matter. Whether Harrington is waxing rhapsodic over math class or yearning for days gone he does so with an earnest sense of passion that reminds me much of the first times I heard Marc Kuzio's nasally shout in early Ghostt Bllonde and Coastal Vision tracks.

It won't be long until Astro Cowboy has honed their craft and become the local titans that acts like Museum Mouth and Ghostt Bllonde are becoming. Travis Harrington and Kameron Vann clearly have a brilliant chemistry as musicians and it gets me downright giddy to see young musicians with such a clear vision as to the sounds they hope to create. Hedonism Colosseum is clearly just a brief taste of the brilliance to come from Astro Cowboy, and while the surf-rock/post-punk vibe may not be as polished and precise as it could be, it's most definitely real. There's a sense of intensity and urgency on these tracks that you can't craft over time, it's got to come from inside of a songwriter, and these two display that in bunches. I'm immensely excited to see where Astro Cowboy goes from here, but for now it's just as exhilarating to soak in the sounds of Hedonism Colosseum and fondly reminisce over the thoughts and feelings of young adult life.

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