Sophomore records are a time for reinvention. That’s what history, as well as the all-knowing Music Critic, has led us to expect. When artists choose not to deviate from their originally laid-out path, even just slightly, they often face harsh judgment. These bands are static, lazy. Boring, even. Then again, buzzy Olympia trio Naomi Punk don’t typically adhere to convention; as far as boredom goes, their sophomore effort, Television Man, steers impeccably clear.
2012’s The Feeling was a learning experience. A gripping debut, not only did the record introduce Naomi Punk from the lush wilds of Washington to the rest of the world, but also solidified their distinct, shadowy style. Few bands operate in the same manner as these precise experimentalists. Smooth and slinky yet remarkably tight, their approach is grimy and graceful, with jolting highs and seductive lows.
On Television Man, the approach is familiar: sinking percussions, vague, distant guitar sounds, and barely intelligible, ghostly vocals. In place of sharp punk aggression, there’s dark thrashing that’s painstakingly delicate. The formula remains the same, but two years removed from The Feeling, its effects are even mightier. Highly addictive, Television Man is an album of hypnotic repetition. Filled with maddening hallucinations, it’s a carefully choreographed dance through the mind.
Songs have no beginning and no end. Instead, they slide effortlessly through streams of burning, thrusting rhythms. Title track “Television Man” twists and turns across a black-tinted pop landscape, with a chorus that’s heavy but impeccably catchy. “Song Factory” churns a bold, jerky melody, over and over again, until it’s stuck like glue to the brain. “Eon of Pain” offers an exasperated self-diagnosis—“I have a pain/It’s in my head”—amidst a twisting labyrinth of anxiety. Strings crush, cymbals crash and noises expand and contract into patches of silence. All the while, Naomi Punk are expertly manning the controls.
From the haunting cadence of Slint to the complex melodic leanings of Nirvana, Naomi Punk certainly evoke pleasant—if not dark—memories. Still, while the band repeat the success of their first album with their second, Television Man doesn’t merely rest on laurels of nostalgia. Its repetition remains fresh, while wholly fierce.