REVIEW: Blasteroid - Pretty Good

Laura Kerry

Blasteroid pretty much hits the nail on the head with their description of their sound as “equal parts ethereal and outrageous.” And despite the silliness of the portmanteau, their name seems to do the trick as well. Blasteroid is an explosive, yet spacy band.

On their debut EP, Pretty Good, they're much more than that, too. An impressively polished first work, the album reveals a band that has mastered its instruments (your standard rock fare, for the most part), is comfortable with its influences (Deerhoof, American Football, and My Bloody Valentine, according to Facebook), and is in full control of its sound. Despite the heavy distortion that brought band members John Shankman, Jesse Bielenberg, and Troy Chryssos together in the first place, the music never gets completely muddy, maintaining its sense of crispness—maintained by skilled playing, songwriting, and production—even when mired in layers of fuzz, reverberating symbols, and filtered voices.

That control comes into stark relief when Blasteroid alternates between soft and noisy, which they do many times throughout the EP—and all to great effect. On the first track, “Artie and the Mountain,” an ethereal wash of synth transitions into a relatively quiet verse without percussion, a suspended kind of sound that drops when the chorus explodes with a stormy guitar and bass riff and drums. There’s a similar kind of surge in nearly all of Pretty Good’s five songs. On “Wet Dog,” the hushed verse, containing little to no distortion, explodes with a chorus that’s so fuzzy it almost sounds like a throwback to grunge (Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” comes to mind), and on “Heater,” a propulsive strum drives the chorus’ hooky melody.

One of the most enjoyable surges happens in reverse, though. On “Oaf,” the chorus is distant, dreamy, and relaxed, while the verses enjoy a bouncy bass line and vocal melody that merges with occasional spurts of other instruments (in one of the song’s best moments, the voice is in conversation with a guitar that’s so distorted it mostly sounds like feedback, which adds a little whimsy to a device usually employed to show toughness and grit). Flipping the expected chorus build-up and inverting the usual functions of noisiness, Blasteroid creates a sound beyond your average psych rock, noise rock, or whichever of the many genres they float between.

Aside from the great ebbs and flows of the album, its success also stems from the small touches that sometimes hide behind the volume of other effects: the extra two beats mid-verse on “Heater,” the colloquial poetry of the lyrics—“My soul sold out / Took money over doubt”—and the polish of its sound (the EP was mastered by Greg Saunier of Deerhoof after they cold-emailed him). After a successful debut filled with these and other triumphs, it’s likely that Blasteroid will continue to do what they do best: explode.