Libel is the kind of band you picture up on a big stage, all dressed in black leather, everybody except the drummer with his foot up on a monitor, half-obscured in mist from the smoke machine. They’re from Brooklyn, but their sound is 100% British. Their sardonically titled album Music for Car Commercials is stagy and dramatic, a mix of wickedly catchy vintage glamrock tunes whose influences run from Bowie, to Spacehog, to more swirling and psychedelic, with an unexpectedly impressive socially conscious edge. Unless somebody in the band owns a studio, this must have cost a fortune to produce: layers and layers of big, raging, echoing guitars; Nick Brzoza’s boomy big-room drums; Brian LaRue’s dynamic, melodic bass, and frontman/guitarist Gavin Dunaway’s Bowie vocal theatrics, which are often a dead ringer for the real thing. The whole album is up at Libel’s Bandcamp page as a name-your-price download.
This Is Love sets the stage: with its uneasy, chromatically-fueled verse making its way methodically up to a big, catchy, upbeat chorus, it’s a good way to start the album. It segues into Golden Child, which is Supergrass with lusher sonics, a sardonic look at showbiz machinations lit up by a paint-peeling slide guitar solo that burns out with a shriek of feedback. Old Boy also makes fun of the entertainment-industrial complex and its clueless consumers, opening with a quote from Daydream Nation and going straight into oldschool Bowie after that. Broken Wine Glass, a kiss-off anthem, has more of a jangly 80s feel, Dunaway dropping his stagy falsetto for a more somber delivery.
Tomorrow’s Children is part Oasis, part glam, a triumphant shout-out to Millennial optimism in the face of adversity. Perceptions, with its blazing, lingering minor-key riffage, is one of the strongest tracks here, with a deliciously backward-masked guitar solo midway through. Empath juxtaposes a grim video game narrative against richly swirling, anthemic atmospherics that echo the Church at their most envelopingly psychedelic.
Filthy Mouth, another screaming minor-key anthem, might be the best song on the album, musically at least; it’s too bad that the lyrics never rise above “I love it when you talk dirty” cliches. No Past Tense goes back to relatively quiet and pensive, again reflecting on the shallowness of corporate music marketing. It segues into the cynical final track, Thoroughly Modern Milieu, which sounds like mid-90s Blur with louder guitars. The Thin White Duke may be past 70 now, but his legacy still resonates, particularly with this bnad. Libel are at Radio Bushwick, 22 Wyckoff Ave. between Troutman and Starr in Brooklyn on Jan 17 at 8 PM.