REVIEW/PICS: Freind - Lemon EP

 All Photos: Gerard Marcus

All Photos: Gerard Marcus

Will Shenton

Jazz and punk may seem like strange bedfellows on the surface, but they have more in common than you might think. There's an improvisational element to both (more deliberate for the former, and more emergent for the latter), and in their day both genres were pretty solidly subversive. Saying that they're musically compatible, however, would have been a much tougher sell prior to the release of Freind's latest EP, Lemon.

Now, I'll probably get lambasted by the geeks among you for saying that a punk album with a single, Gilberto-esque outro actually counts as having jazz elements, but bear with me. Yes, Lemon is primarily a sludgy, manic, eclectic art-punk EP—but that little bit at the end of "EarthBound," the final track, feels like such a natural (if abrupt) transition that I couldn't help but start drawing parallels.

Freind draws from a huge diversity of influences—grunge, synth pop, hardcore, and dream pop, among others—that it's hard to put this album into any sort of box. The opener, "Chemtrails," sounds like an early Josh Homme track; "The Pleasure Is All Mine" has a playful, cheesy-horror-movie vibe; "Loops" is a mashup of dream pop and shoegaze, with layered vocals awash in reverb and an eventual wall of guitar noise towards the end; "Bebop" goes for cutesy, goofy indie synth pop; and "EarthBound" is a heavy psych rocker in the vein of the Black Angels, but, you know, more interesting.

All of these elements are executed with such consistency that you barely even notice the stylistic swings on a first listen. It helps that the unifying thread of crunchy guitars are present in just about every track, but it goes beyond that—Freind clearly have the confidence to do each of these disparate genres well without batting an eye.

So perhaps that's why I made the subconscious connection to jazz: Lemon is unapologetic about its experimentation. It never feels like lampshading—"Look how crazy we're being, guys!"—and instead owns its scattered weirdness to a degree that you just feel compelled to go along with it. Sure, maybe only one track sounds like "The Girl from Ipanema," but Freind are nonetheless carrying a torch of innovation that goes back decades. Now all their next album needs is a horn section.