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For some folks, shoegaze is the gift that keeps on giving. Take Screen Vinyl Image, D.C.’s best—and perhaps only—noisegaze band, for whom The Jesus and Mary Chain offers an ever-bountiful cornucopia of inspiration.
Or it would seem that way, since Jake and Kim Reid have been hammering away at that blistering sound for a while now—first with Alcian Blue and now as Screen Vinyl Image, which has just released its second album, Strange Behavior. It’s the follow-up to a punishing debut, 2009’s Interceptors, and a handful of smaller releases, including a cassette EP and 7-inch on Maryland label Fan Death. (That label’s owners once called Screen Vinyl Image one of two good bands in D.C.) On this record, though, the duo does something it hasn’t done quite as well before: It crafts a truly great anthem.
Opener “We Don’t Belong” sounds like a crushing break-up song, given its moody lyrics (“You’re pulling me close to you every time I turn to go”), but it’s about the alienation wrought by technological advancement. After a few minutes of drum-machine battery, it careens toward a red alert: That siren wail—the song’s devastating pinnacle—could be a rallying call for computer slaves to unshackle themselves and, I don’t know, break shit.
What I mean is: This is probably one to see live.
Track No. 2, “Revival,” is far from a comedown. Industrial-tinged and doused in distortion, it roars without baring its claws, reminding me of why I once daydreamed about shows in Fredericksburg, Va.: Skywave (whose members have formed Ceremony and A Place to Bury Strangers) made it seem like the coolest, loudest place on Earth. Screen Vinyl Image channels that here.
What follows is not always as powerful. There are flirtations with darkwave, a foray into dark folk, and of course, an overwhelming indebtedness to My Bloody Valentine, JaMC, Boo Radleys, Lush, et al. But some songs sound incomplete. “Stay Asleep” is Cure-gloomy, but hampered by Jake Reid’s undeveloped vocals; “My Confession” is haunting but plodding. Both could use a few more minutes in the oven.
When Screen Vinyl Image goes all in, though, it’s abundantly clear. “New Visions,” previously released on 2010’s Ice Station cassette EP and this year’s Siberian Eclipse 7-inch, reappears on this album in updated form. It remains one of the band’s best: swirlingly ambient with a pleasing melodic undercurrent, like a noisy rework of New Order’s “Your Silent Face.” The record closes with, believe it or not, a nod to early ’90s techno: “Night Trip” opens with a squelching acid gurgle and transforms into a goth-night sleeper hit. To Baltimore we go!
Strange Behavior is not a change of course for the band—or its favorite rock subgenre—but it’s running on some seriously potent fumes.