Richie James Follin might be the least bored guy in New York City. On Guards’ 2010 self-titled EP, his full-throttle vocals lifted the band out of reverb-heavy retrospective onto a fiercer edge. Wielding a sanguine sense of play, the trio stomped all over the ’50s and ’60s with steel-toed Pixies boots. Nearly three years later, Guards’ debut full-length bites down a little harder, but can’t keep its jaw clenched throughout its running time.
In Guards We Trust kicks in hard with new meanness. “Nightmare” breaks from a simmering verse into the kind of thrashy chorus that made the Guards EP so relentlessly addictive, now with extra sting. Here, there’s a little more bubbling beneath the surface: synth flutes and bells drip in among cloudy guitars, while Follin’s voice seems wound around a few extra pedals. But for the most part, the record rides the bright surf of the rock trio. Roaring chords, steady bass, and huge drums surge to even greater heights than those achieved on the group’s first release.
The highs are so high in those first songs that even Guards seem to get vertigo. There are only so many anthems an album can line up in a row, but Guards stacks them all at the top. “Ready to Go” and “Heard the News” feel like they should crash in at the climax of the record rather than in its first half, as there’s nowhere to go but down from these rollicking choruses. “Coming True” aside, part two settles down to a mellower register, caging the punch teased in its first few songs.
At its best, In Guards We Trust is terrific fun — a bold break from the cynicism and detachment that characterizes too much of the band’s native city. But a few more careful edits might have kept the record from blowing its gasket by side B.
Essential Tracks: “Nightmare”, “Coming True”