The Isleys, Demo | Album Review | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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The Isleys, Demo 

Album Review

cd-isleys.jpg

(Self-released, CD)

Waterbury will likely never be known as an indie-rock hot spot. But the sleepy central Vermont hamlet is not completely lacking in skinny-jean cred. With their debut offering, Demo, Waterbury’s Isleys deliver a promising, if at times predictable, EP that suggests the more bustling scenes of Burlington and Montpelier haven’t cornered the market on the genre.

“Into Thin Air” introduces the EP with a laid-back, arpeggiated guitar line before developing into a sturdy, mid-tempo rocker. Lead vocalist Jeremy Jorgenson proves a capable front man. His reedy tone can be thin and nasal in the upper register, but his impassioned delivery goes a long way toward offsetting any technical flaws.

The Isleys seem as informed by classic indie and alt-rock as by the more anthemic bar-band oeuvre heard in many a local blue-collar watering hole. That’s a precarious balancing act. But the band generally walks the line without leaning too far into radio-rock schmaltz. “Deafening Harbor” is a good example. Centered around a fist-pumping chorus, the song boasts a fine mix of challenging composition and arrangement, and pure, visceral rock bombast.

Not all of the Isleys’ tunes fare quite so well, however. Acoustic power ballad “Lost My Way” veers a little too close to lighter-waving cock-rock for comfort. Fortunately, the band returns to form on “Well Developed Curse,” a scorching cut that features a downright filthy halftime break at the chorus, and melodic themes that owe notable debts to alt-rock greats of the 1980s and ’90s, especially the Pixies and Dinosaur Jr.

Of course, a little hero worship goes a long way, and it’s all too easy to overindulge. Demo ends on a sour note with a souped-up version of Lou Barlow’s “Vampire.” The Isleys’ reimagine the Sebadoh classic as a radio-rock anthem, stripping away the dark, cold-blooded intensity that made the original great. It’s an unfortunate close to an otherwise solid debut. If the Isleys can fine-tune their sound and reconcile their sometimes competing influences, they’ll be a welcome addition to the state’s vital indie-rock scene.

The Isleys play the Reservoir Restaurant & Tap Room in Waterbury on Saturday, January 22.

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About The Author

Dan Bolles

Dan Bolles

Bio:
Dan Bolles is Seven Days' assistant arts editor and also edits What's Good, the annual city guide to Burlington. He has received numerous state, regional and national awards for his coverage of the arts, music, sports and culture. He loves dogs, dark beer and the Boston Red Sox... more

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