SPREADING MORE THAN RUMOURS:

Band’s newest album showcases individuality and appeal

From left:  Guitarist Andrew Wessen, singer Christian Zucconi, keyboardist Hannah Hooper, bassist Sean Gadd, and drummer Ryan Rabin

From left: Guitarist Andrew Wessen, singer Christian Zucconi, keyboardist Hannah Hooper, bassist Sean Gadd, and drummer Ryan Rabin

SOPHIE KENNEY

smkenney11@ole.augie.edu
 

“I am what I am, a natural disaster,” sings Grouplove frontman Christian Zucconi on “Shark Attack,” the second single off the band’s new album, “Spreading Rumours.” Luckily for fans of the SoCal-based indie rockers, the band’s second full-length album is anything but a disaster.

Following up the success of their 2011 debut album, “Never Trust A Happy Song,” Grouplove’s 13 new tracks make sure to avoid the sophomore slump.

“Ways To Go,” the album’s infectiously catchy first single, provides the highlight amidst a number of tracks with a notably heavy presence of synth and guitar. That presence separates “Rumours” from its more acoustic predecessor without taking away from the band’s unpredictable and quirky signature style.

The album gets off to an ear-pleasing start with the opening instrumentals on “I’m With You.” Gradually building with a 2-minute piano intro that sounds like a happier “Moonlight Sonata” on espresso shots and Red Bull, the escalation comes to a temporary halt before Zucconi’s distinct vocals break the silence.

Zucconi’s voice fades out shortly thereafter, followed by the start of an upbeat chorus sung by Hannah Hooper, the quintet’s lone female member. The track’s use of piano, percussion, synth, and sirens set the tone for the rest of the album’s experimental variety.

The band promptly segways into “Borderlines and Aliens,” the hardest hitting song on “Rumours.” The opening guitar riff alone induces enough headbanging and hair-whipping to make Willow Smith jealous. Sans synth, “Aliens” is the album’s standout rock song.

The aforementioned “Shark Attack” is another highlight on “Rumours.” The happily-nonsensical lyrics showcase Grouplove’s individuality, with mentions of skinny-dipping and voyages to Jupiter.

The album also has its share of notably zany tracks, including “Sit Still,” an ode to life with ADHD, and “Hippy Hill,” a psychedelic EDM-tinged declaration of Zucconi’s desire to be a hippy instead of a hipster.

The second half of the album is not quite as enjoyable as the first. Tracks like “News To Me” prove underwhelming, whereas the circus-like “Bitin’ the Bullet” comes off as an overly-stuffed kaleidoscope of sound trying to do too many things at once.

“Rumour’s” second half finds redemption, however, in the catchy standout tracks “Raspberry” and “Save the Party,” a melodic finale that fittingly closes the curtain.

Grouplove’s genre is increasingly difficult to label with the release of “Spreading Rumours.” Their sound never lingers too long in a specific category on the musical spectrum. Rather, the band seemingly prefers to transition into and combine various elements of rock, pop, indie, and punk music whenever they please, settling under the broad umbrella of the “alternative music” world. This unpredictability and constant metamorphosis is Grouplove’s most memorable and exciting attribute.

For Grouplove’s new listeners, Zucconi’s distinct voice may prove to be a deal breaker. The crooner’s vocals, while fitting perfectly into Grouplove’s unique sound, could still be identified by some as a wailing howl instead of actual singing. The high pitched tenor does not shy away from his vocal limits, fully embracing the cracks in his voice and at times using them to his advantage.

While Zucconi’s voice is not soothing enough to fall asleep to, fans of up-tempo alternative music who are looking to stay awake will enjoy the distinct vocals and appreciate Grouplove’s determination to remain true to their own genre-defying music.

Comprehensively, “Spreading Rumours” is a satisfying sophomore effort that represents Grouplove’s evolution since the release of “Never Trust A Happy Song.” While the new album may not have an Apple commercial-ready song like “Tongue Tied,” the platinum-certified hit from the debut album and Grouplove’s most popular single to date, it is safe to say the band won’t be losing any sleep over the reception of “Rumours” as a whole.

Grouplove makes their individuality and authenticity evident through the combination of marketable, catchy songs placed alongside certain tracks that are, to put it lightly, unusual.

“Ways To Go” currently sits near the top of multiple alternative music charts and has received significant airplay since the single’s mid-summer release.

Congruently, in a move that reinforces their trademark attitude of nonconformity, Grouplove decided to include a track on the deluxe version of the album titled “Beans On Pizza” that is literally about, you guessed it, beans on pizza.

While it is difficult to give “Beans On Pizza” a ringing endorsement, the sentiment serves as the band’s authenticity guarantee. The variety on “Rumours” shows Grouplove’s commitment to making whatever kind of music they desire, with little regard for pleasing record label executives with commercial success. Nonconforming and lively throughout, the new album further establishes Grouplove as one of alternative music’s most unpredictable bands.

“Spreading Rumours” is worth a listen (or two) for longtime fans and those who are unfamiliar with the quirky and upbeat music of Grouplove. Grouplove’s attitude embodies the spirit of today’s alternative music audience, and sits well with hipsters and hippies alike in a generation obsessed with being “different.”

Check out their album on Spotify.