REVIEW: Landlines - Problems 24/7

Kelly Kirwan

Portland-based rockers Landlines have taken Thoreau's words as their sort of ethos, describing their sound as "deconstructionist basement post-pop," which is (at least in part) rooted in the idea that all meaning is riddled with inconsistencies. Or, in other words, what we see as reason is, in reality, bullshit. It's the perfect philosophical doctrine for Landlines to operate under, especially with their garage-rock vibe that's notoriously fueled by angst and cynicism for any mainstream structure ("the man," as the kids may say).

True to those two tenets, Landlines' aptly-titled album Problems 24/7 sways between fuzzy lo-fi tracks and rip-roaring guitar-and-drum interplay. While garage rock usually has this schtick of being unrefined, even amateurish, the men of Landlines show their musical prowess even as they rev up the pace and stretch their vocals into a semi-scream. They seem to be both rebelling against the mundane and reveling in it for inspiration, just like Thoreau posed—we have a medium, but are we saying anything that matters?

The guys behind the music are Dustin Aaron Scharlach, Jheremy Arthur Grigsby, and Wiley (also known as “ms. dr. child”) Hickson, who’ve shared stages with the likes of Deep Time, Woolen Men, and Stickers, to name a few. Going through Problems 24/7, it’s easy to pick up the dry wit these three spin, like on their track "Airport Bars." It opens with the twang of a slow guitar plucking, before the steady drums and cymbal tappings round out the background with a leisurely pace.

The vocals match the tone, and a calm, rather bored drone sings, “Questioning all the significance / Of what you believed with such confidence ... Ponder me while I practice my French.” The chorus follows with “Hangovers in airport bars,” and speaks of dark hours spent during a layover, browsing a Hudson News stand. In those moments you have a choice, to either expand your mind with a deep read, or waste the minutes away with a shot of liquor and skepticism (you can guess which usually wins out).

Then there’s “On the Grid,” which begins with a dose of waning distortion before jumping into a fairly upbeat melody punctuated by moments of heavy drumming. This is a song about a girl, and on this track, when the sound is amped up, it's not from frustration, but rather infatuation. The track is catchy and happy without becoming saccharine, so secret hopeless romantics can rejoice. This won’t blow your cover.

Landlines are a band that’ll have your fingers twitching from their fast chord progressions, and your inner cynic nodding in agreement (and maybe even changing its tune). So get to it.