Everything I’ve told you about The Welcome has been a lie. I apologize for misleading you, but the band featured here on Bicentennial is not the same one I’ve been talking about for the past two years. If The Welcome of today heard the band that played on the EP Hopscotch, they’d beat them up and take their lunch money.
Over the past twelve months there has been a major shift in the songwriting and attitude of The Welcome, going from sometimes twee pop to big guitars and hooks that early releases never really hinted at. I like the swagger at the foundation of Bicentennial. They take influences from all over the place and mix them up in a record that always keeps you guessing. Things I’ve never heard from the band before, like funk and blues riffs, had me on the edge of my seat the first time through.
They seem to be cognizant of the sea change going on, focusing more time on ripping it up musically than trying to win over hearts and minds with their words. They’re still writing some love songs, but they’re got more bite now. Like on the second track, “Britannica.” Sarah Johnson takes the lead vocals hanging over Gehring Miller’s lead electric guitar. When she delivers the line “In my thoughts ad nauseam until my heart’s the same, I try to keep the cool intact but you disintegrate” she caps it with a howl worthy of the Purple One.
We get a couple of tracks here that you may have heard before if you’ve seen them play live in the past year. “The Colossal Sound” is one of the first songs I heard them play that made me take a step back and rethink my whole knowledge of the band. It starts off fast and loud, and just keeps getting more fuzzy and buzzy as it goes along. I’d never seen Gehring take to the guitar like this before, and it really got me thinking about what might be possible if they go in this direction full-time.
They slow things down a bit after that with the song “Curriculum.” This is probably the closest to the old The Welcome as we get on Bicentennial. It’s ornate in it’s makeup-fits of soft and subtle utterances pressed up against primal thrashing and howling. This might be the best introduction to The Welcome 2.0.
The final song really threw me for a loop. “Acetaminophen” kicks off with something akin to a disco beat that I was completely unprepared for. This one kind of reminds me of the first time I heard “Your Cover’s Blown” by Belle & Sebastian. I literally sat in my car with my mouth agape for the duration of that song. The Welcome do some interesting things here-for one, this is the only song of theirs that I would even attempt to call “dancy.” They somehow also make it an emotionally charged tune that keeps pressing the gas until the finish line.
As usual, I can’t say enough good things about The Welcome. They keep getting better at every turn, and at this point the sky is the limit. After enduring a lineup change, losing their old drummer Casey and moving bass player Jonah Kort into that position, they’re still tight as ever. They’ve added bass player Jacob Karbin, and he seems to be a good fit for the group.
Bicentennial isn’t going to be available for the masses for about a month-the release show is set for February 23rd at Quenchers Saloon in Chicago. BUT, if you’d like to hear some of these tracks sooner, The Welcome will be at The Empty Bottle tomorrow night (1/29/13) for a show that I set up featuring all Chicago bands that recorded a song for my Hasty Revelations project. It’s FREE with RSVP or $8 at the door.