The High Violets at SXSW in 2006 because, well, they dared me to! No, really. Of all of the 500 or so bands who had a short bio in The Official Directory, they were the only one to claim a Cocteau
Twins influence. A rabid CT fan like myself couldn't let them say that and not go see them. So i did, and was suitably impressed.
A few months later, i ordered this CD from their
website. I must say that their sound, which i would say is more Lush than Cocteau
Twins, comes across really well on album. Almost better than it did live, but i would really need to see them play live again before i can make such a judgment. Anyway, there are lots of references that the shoegaze fan will notice and enjoy here.
Firstly, there is the powerful voice of Kaitlyn Ni Donovan. She sings in the mid range mostly, and can make her voice sound trembly (Invitation), delicate (Chinese Letter), or rich (Sunn Baby). She does a great job.
However, Ms. Donovan doesn't just sing, she also strums away on the guitar. And it the guitarwork of her and Clint Sargent that really make this album work. Sargent has apparently studied all of the greats of the distorted guitar, from The Byrds (Want You) to Verve (Love Is Blinding) to Flock of Seagulls (Cool Green). I think that his real standout performance is on Invitation, where his guitar chimes in subtle delicate layers that act as a perfect counterpoint to Donovan's voice.
Shoegaze is nothing without powerful rhythms, and to that effect The High Violets have a virtuoso bassist in Aaron Overstreet. His backing efforts give the hazy mess of voice and distorted guitar a sort of coherence. I think he shines brightest on X-Tasy, where his instrument rumbles behind the voice and guitars in a playful manner.
Now, all that said, The High Violets are actually capable of performing a wide range of tunes. Oh sure, there are the genre-standard shoegaze tunes like Sunn Baby and Invitation, but they also descend into synthpop on Cool Green and manage to pull it off. And Want You almost sounds like a lost Martha and the Vandellas tune, only with male backing vocals.
I am suitably impressed, and i think that other fans of catchy distorted guitar pop will be as well. Go and check them out if you get the chance.