On Permanent Collection’s Newly Wed Nearly Dead, the San Francisco group affectionately hearkens to shoegaze, garage and light psych, while managing to make a cohesive album. Most groups flog their influences to death in a sycophantic regurgitation ritual. Permanent Collection borrows lightly from a variety of sources, but the group is settled enough in their delivery to evade mere pastiche.
Only, the group’s insistence on resting in the overlapping section of a stylistic Venn diagram is precisely what marginalizes the album overall. The song-writing isn’t strong enough to propel a full length and the restrained performance lays the fundamental songs bare in underdevelopment.
The few instances of musical assertiveness reveal glimmering hope, but inevitably regress into the same tempo, with the same uninspired delivery. “In My Head” and “One Thousand Sins” are bookended with short segments of dissonant feedback. In between the intro and outro, however, guitars strum out, vocals meander and the songs never reaches the level of excitement initially hinted at. The market might be saturated with Jesus and Mary Chain-aping automatons, but the few moments of harsh feedback on Newly Wed Nearly Dead, suggest the group could do it well, if only it wasn’t so hesitant to get ugly.
In the unabashed shoegaze influence evident on “Sundays” and “Too Late,” Permanent Collection’s restraint does it the greatest disservice. Unwilling to cultivate the sort of dense chaos that doesn’t impart nihilistic violence nor druggy atmospherics, the songs linger in an emotive void. The music’s neutrality is interesting for just how deliberate it seems. Permanent Collection is certainly capable of noise and significant attention is allotted to instrumental tones and recording techniques, but the dynamic shifts and structural flourishes listeners anticipate never materialize.
Permanent Collection’s lack of release or thematic resolution wouldn’t be so disenchanting if the songs contained more tension, but the lackluster vocal delivery dispels that quality as well. The vocals are too detached from the song. Given the consistent tempo throughout the album and redundant song structures, listeners begin to wonder if the vocal track could be lifted from one song and placed above another.
Permanent Collection is timid to a fault on Newly Wed Nearly Dead, but the album is cohesive. It’s coy and inoffensive all throughout, which certainly won’t alienate potential listeners. It leaves a fleeting feeling, but certainly won’t enrapture and many record buyers are searching for just that. Still, Permanent Collection nearly ventures outside its comfort zone on many occasions, which provide the album’s most rewarding moments. The group is carefully walking along a fence, but it should be leaping off. In rock music, it is better to alienate some and captivate others than to craft something for all to ignore.