20 Watts

20 Watts Reviews Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor by JohnCassillo
February 16, 2010, 10:25 am
Filed under: Releases of the Week | Tags: , , ,

Local Natives' Gorilla Manor is a strong debut for the young L.A. band

PREVIEW: VISIT Local Natives’ MySpace
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

Coming on strong and distinctive, Local Natives‘ debut album Gorilla Manor can (at first) appear to be the perfect storm. With a surprisingly strong percussion section, enthusiastic vocals and a penchant for pop hooks, the young band seemingly has stardom written all over them. However, there’s also one thing Local Natives fails to possess on Gorilla Manor— some restraint  — which ends up being somewhat of a detriment to an album that could have been great.

The album is virtually held up by driving drum parts, enthusiastic keyboards and the offsetting harmony of Taylor Rice and Kelsey Ayer. For the large majority of the album, there is hardly a flaw to be found, to be honest. Single “Camera Talk” is a soaring, catchy testament to what the band can truly achieve within the scaffolding of a four minute pop song. Other tracks toward the middle of the record like “Shape Shifter” and “Warning Sign” bring an unbridled energy to the album, nailing every rapid crescendo at their peaks, and thrusting the effort forwards.

While these songs are executed perfectly, there are some elements that begin to take away from the experience after repeated listening. As explosive as “Sun Hands” is, it becomes an orgy of over-application. The first appearance of gang chants (there are many), mixed with an unnecessary guitar solo make an otherwise memorable track into a model of over-ambition. There’s also the issue of the band seemingly following a similar script for nearly every song. It starts slow, grows, then bursts to a triumphant mid-section, followed by a bridge, short burst, and then end. In small doses, this works, but by the end of a full album it grows a bit tiring.

These are not mistakes due to lack of talent, however. On the contrary, Local Natives possess enough talent to go around and then some, as proven by the album’s superior layout. The issues come from a lack of experience more than anything, which can surely be ironed out with time.

Slight criticisms are not meant to downplay the quality of emotionally-charged songs like “Who Knows Who Cares” or the shimmering glow of “Cubism Dream.” Rather, the fact that these are the only issues to be found shows just how successful Gorilla Manor was, and Local Natives will be.

— John Cassillo

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