On last year’s Explore EP, southern California transplant Yoodoo Park crafted a set of seven tunes perfect for a mid-afternoon stroll, exploring the pleasant surroundings. But on his latest LP under the GRMLN moniker, Empire, he’s found out where all the fun places are, and he’s ready to go directly to them. Accordingly, the bedroom guitar pop is cranked up to a nostalgic ’90s pop punk energy.
The lo-fi haze dissipates some, as if he’s mapped out exactly where those shady areas lie, and he bypasses them at all costs. Opening track “Teenage Rhythm” sounds like a Sunny D-swigging Nathan Williams, even the tough emotions delivered in a sugary warmth. “So get out/ so get out/ get out of my head,” he repeatedly calls at the song’s conclusion, with little of the frustration the words imply. “I keep away from the girl and her broken heart,” he insists on ’50s ballad “Cheer Up”, a telling avoidance of difficult subjects.
Still, that and the acoustic “Dear Fear” are the only tracks on the album that attempt much of a change musically. After seven punches of nonstop distorted power chords, skipping rhythms, and thumping bass, the stylistic change of pace leaves the potential for Empire to open up. Park found the formula for adolescent energy and tapped directly into it, tacking these last two tracks onto the disc’s end because he can.
Park’s songwriting is nothing if not confident, energetic, and pop aware. The downside of that focus, though, is that the album feels homogenized, both lyrically and musically. Other than a minor pace tweak, “Blue Lagoon” and “Hand Pistol” roll into each other indistinguishably, a trend that sinks many of the potential standalone hooks. Lead single and opening track “Teenage Rhythm” stands out entirely on its own, but a bundle of similar tunes stacked together weakens its overall impact.
Essential Tracks: “Teenage Rhythm”