Pete Galub has been highly sought after in the New York underground rock scene for years: he’s played lead guitar and bass with acts as diverse as art-rockers the Universal Thump (with whom he’s on Australian tour at this moment), country cult idol Amy Allison and alt-Americana pioneers the Silos. Galub is also the rare sideman whose songwriting is as strong as his musicianship. His new album Candy Tears – streaming at his Bandcamp page – is his quantum leap, a lusciously textured, bitingly melodic mix of art-rock and powerpop. His vocals have never been stronger, his lyrics are clever and sardonic and his guitar playing is a rare blend of ferocity and economy of notes. Galub smartly chose to record this with New York’s master of the upper midrange, Martin Bisi, who captured every ringing overtone, gritty roar and lingering sustained chord on this album just as he did with Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation all those years ago.
Galub is a purist: the tunes and the hooks come first, then he fills out the picture. Bassist Tom Gavin holds down the low end with such perfect competence that you don’t notice he’s there; Chris Moore (who also adds acoustic guitar and organ) is one of the more musical drummers around, adding uneasy, rustling colors that enhance the often epic majesty of many of the songs. Some of the powerpop stuff reminds of the Figgs; Big Star is also an obvious influence, and there are echoes of Australian art-rock legends the Church here and there.
The opening track, Reacquaintance has a raw, guitar-fueled anger that reminds of Eric Ambel’s early 90s songs: “I drank an ocean until I saw bottom, remember the good times until I’ve forgotten,” Galub rages as his big, sustained late Beatles chords ring out. Crying Time is the monster hit here, working quickly from an ominous Wire-esque chord change to a bitter, wickedly catchy 60s flavored psychedelic pop theme.
The steady janglerock tune All I Am could be the Figgs in their early days when they had two guitars and jammed out their endings. An art-rock masterpiece, 300 Days in July slowly builds a hallucinatory, regret-drenched summer ambience. “So many drugs in the water supply…walking on water, those were the days when we just let it all slide,” Galub laments as the guitar ripples in tandem with his Universal Thump bandmate Adam D Gold’s vibraphone.
Feels All Over is sort of the Who meets the Church circa 1982, growing tensely from just guitar and vocals to an insistent, tense, ringing pulse. A boisterous, theatrical blast of 60s-influenced psychedelia, My Regeneration echoes Love Camp 7, but louder: “It’s alive!” is the echoey mantra half-buried in the reveb-toned sonic mayhem.
Galub teases with the chorus on Waiting, hinting at a release from the tension, finally reaching a searing, swirling dreampop hailstorm that’s part My Bloody Valentine, part vintage Sonic Youth. I Plead the Fifth Dimension opens with a glacial, opiated deep-space Velvets vibe and builds with layers and layers of guitars into a ferociously sarcastic commentary on idie-era detachment. The album closes with Boat, guitar and vocals establishing a bitter atmosphere that grows dreamy before a wailing bluesy lead disrupts the reverie and eventually slashes and burns its way through everything in its path. It’s awfully early in the year, but we have a contender for best rock album of the year here.