Vanaprasta frontman Steven Wilkin knows where the band wants to take rock music, as the band’s bio declares: “Someplace mystical, where there’s an arena-sized sound.” That idea’s rampant over the Silver Lake, Los Angeles collective’s debut, Healthy Geometry, which comes fully stocked with clean, airy solos, earnestly delivered non-sequitur “yeahs” and “ohs”, and, on one occasion, an honest-to-goodness extended clap-along segue. This is a stage-ready band built on a stadium sound, and this debut succeeds on that premise.
But let’s address the elephant in the room before we go any further. The Kings of Leon comparison is forthcoming, the album being littered with lovelorn ballads and Wilkin’s sober wailing, not to mention the hair. But this comparison isn’t precise. Wilkin, a childhood opera singer, extends his register at times to a controlled falsetto Caleb Followill is not capable of, backed by harmonizing bandmates Collin Desha and Taylor Brown. His strengths are most pronounced on songs like “G-” and the title track and album centerpiece, wherein he cedes some space to guitarist Cameron Dmytryk and the band’s savvy rhythm section.
Vanaprasta’s “Self Indulgent Feeling” is an unapologetically bouncy “living life” glam rocker which will surely become the staple of the band’s live shows, although the clap-along comes across here as a little trite. The well-produced (Dave Schiffman) opener “Nineequalsnine” intrigues with concerted samples and noodling before Wilkin, channeling Lenny Kravitz, diverts attention with his contemplations on “All the things we take for granted” — among them being the blue sky, “’cause without the giant canvas/the day would most certainly be blue, yeah!” Wilkin’s lyrical gaffes — hey, no one asked him to be Wordsworth — are sometimes distracting but can also serve to his advantage, as on “Crushing Ants”, which humorously compares a soured relationship to the ants the narrator generously chooses not to crush underneath his feet.
Healthy Geometry is exactly what it tries to be, and no more — a collection of nine jovial four-minute rock songs which, for better or for worse, feel written for a live setting. Little here warrants careful listening, but hey, neither does much of AC/DC’s work, and those guys did okay.
Essential Tracks: “Healthy Geometry”, “Don’t Go Home”