California X - 'California X'

California X - 'California X'

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Originality? Derivative? Generic?

What do all these words actually mean in regards to music?

I’m sure we’ve all heard them bandied around in music reviews. Or perhaps mentioned by friends when they don’t really like an artist - I know I’ve fallen into the trap of calling bands derivative or generic even when I’m not really sure what those words actually mean!

However, from as far as I can tell, people tend to use the words when they find a band’s sound lacking originality or when it reminds them of another sound or genre which they don’t really like. But is lacking complete originality really a bad thing?

If you look back through music history many of the all time great bands or albums are just rehashing or refining what other people have done before them. Think about someone like Chuck Berry who has influenced just about every person to pick up an electric guitar after him, whether they knew it or not. Hell, The Beatles have done much the same thing to just about every songwriter since the sixties.

Indie rock newcomers California X are perfect examples of picking up someone else’s ideas and running with them; pushing them into new directions. And they do it bloody well!

Sounding like the love child of Dinosaur Jr and Japandroids, the Massachusetts four piece (led by Lemmy Gurtowsky) have concocted 8 tracks of full throttle, grimy, delicious, alt rock fun.

Dinosaur Jr seem to be the band’s major creative reference point. It is easy to see the guitar sound similarities between Gurtowsky and J Mascis, even his mumbled vocal delivery reminds me of the Dinosaur Jr frontman. However, it is the passion and urgency in which he and the rest of the band perform that makes me forget any scepticism I might have. Songs like “Lemmy’s World” and the thundering opener “Sucker” are pure gold, filled with mega-fuzzed out guitars, heavy drums and super catchy hooks.  

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Considering the band only formed in 2012 they sound remarkably in sync with one another, forming a very full and accomplished sound. I had to keep reminding myself throughout listening to the album that it is in fact their debut record. They are pretty consistent throughout, hammering through one track, taking a quick breather and then pummelling the next tune. This makes for a super enjoyable listen; however it can become a little same-same after a while. I found after listening to the record the first couple of times that I was a bit blurry of its details. I knew I loved it. I just couldn’t really distinguish between too many of the songs properly.

That being said, after repeated listens it is clear to see which tracks are the strongest. The middle four tracks seem to be a bit more impressive than the rest, with an exception to the monolithic opening track. “Hot Red” and “Lemmy’s World” are particular stand-outs for me. They contain probably the two most memorable riffs from the record and have a tendency to stick with you more effectively than most of the other tracks once you’ve finished listening.

So if you have a weak spot for fuzzy, frantic alternative/indie rock, then California X is a pretty sure bet for you.

Does it break any new music territory?

Not really.

But will it cause you to want to go drink beer on the beach and frolic about in the waves to its plethora of catchy tunes?

Hell yes it will!!


-Dan Cottam

California X - Lemmy's World

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