By Phillipe Roberts
For a band from Portland, OR, where I assume a cool and frightening mist hovers constantly like a perpetually eerie yet refreshing cloud, Ah God sure sound sweaty. Bouncing off the basement walls with sugar-rush energy, these “art-grunge” weirdos have melted together the scavenged remains of The Black Lips, early Ty Segall, and The Gerbils - heady punks whose lysergic excursions have gummed up the works a bit - into an abrasive trip that’s positively humid with fuzz and off-the-wall reverb; by the midway point in these sticky hits, you’ll need more than a bit of elbow grease to peel yourself off the couch. Pop Tiiime into your tape deck and prepare to get damaged on a bi-coastal garage rock pleasure cruise.
It’s unfair to bands like Ah God that “garage” can be so easily mistaken as a synonym for amateurism or sloppiness. Even a cursory glance at long haul modern punk mainstays like Thee Oh Sees or White Fence reveals that, for every bar band masquerading as The Strokes, there are dozens of others waiting in the wings with a commitment to razor-sharp songwriting and ferociously tight instrumental chops.
Right off the bat, it’s clear the the grit and grime they pack into these grooves is, for the most part, pure window dressing. After all, there’s nothing in the effects that could give opener “Another Planet” the theatrical, scene-setting quality that the sweeping chord progression and grandiose lead lines don’t already do over the thunderous, crashing beat. Even on the dials-in-the-red fuzz blitz “Looser Eye,” where each member seems to be competing to out-volume the other, or the aqueous keyboard intro to late-album space oddity “Dibby’s Always Like…,” the moments where they let that signal swampify tend to coincide with the album’s emotional peaks and valleys. Ah God revel in their ridiculous, excitable characteristics; as they careen head first into moments of hairy madness, so too does their control on the effects dial.
If these psyched-out goofballs would just keep their sonic composure, Tiiime could easily go blow for blow with a band like Arcade Fire for accessibility. Singer Chad Davis affects the mad preacher, voice in the wilderness cry that made Win Butler such a powerhouse in their madcap early days. Turn up the tape speed on highlight “Dibby’s Always Like…” and you’ll be halfway to ”Power Out,” minus the glockenspiel. Those moments, where Ah God drip with tortured emotion, are easily the highlight of the record, even if they do occasionally lose their way on undercooked, burnt-to-a-crisp fare like “Mild Zepp,” which never quite coalesces into the wavy interlude it could be, instead settling for mild wackiness and an uncomfortably destabilized synthesizer part.
Thankfully, Ah God prefer to wear their heart on their collective, distorted sleeves, and leave the winking pastiche to the experts. Grab a shovel and dig beneath the sludge, and Tiiime will reward your patience with steady, lovable hooks and choked-up rock worth banging your head against. Just be sure to rinse off the slime when you’re done.