I hate writing about new records when my husband is home. He sits on the couch behind me, drinking his stupid Budweiser, eating tuna melts and making fun of every band that comes out of our stereo that didn’t have a groupie in a high-cut thong in their music video. I live in a house with Skynyrd and Crushed Butler posters. There’s way too many Flying Vs in our living room.
So I put on the Holydrug Couple’s second album Moonlust. Husband starts flapping his stubborn, Southern lip.
“This sounds like Tristeza,” he says through mouthfuls of tuna melt, as crumbs fall on his underwear. “Why is everyone trying to do the ’90s again? The ’90s sucked. This doesn’t have enough movement.”
“Can it, before I divorce you.” The classic empty threat.
I put on the band’s 2013 debut album, Noctuary, for comparison. He gives it a few songs and agrees that he likes the old stuff better. But he likes anything with a little more “rock” that much better. Noctuary moves differently from Moonlust, and you can tell the technique and production is purposeful. On their new album, it’s clear that the boys in the band had an agenda unconcerned with the taste of someone like my husband. They were not trying to plow through and pummel the listener. The Holydrug Couple is a band that relies on growth, a slowness in their songs that feels as though you are climbing the stairs to get to a peak with every note. I quickly remind Husband he once had a stupid lip ring and played bass in a band called Yaphet Kotto, so he can shut it. He laughs. I’m so glad I married someone who is constantly winding me up.
Maybe my husband thinks that Moonlit is boring, but I think he’s just too impatient in his old age to wait for their nuances. But then again, there is no accounting for taste. This is why writing about records is never objective, and why would we want it to be? Objectivity is a snoozefest. Besides, who, except for your publicist and your A&R representative, gives a shit what the tastemakers think? Every musician hates Pitchfork until Pitchfork likes them. Where’s your Maximumrocknroll subscription now?
Moonlust is clean, crisp and dreamy. (Hell, the first single is actually titled “Dreamy.”) The Chilean duo has been shuffling through the psych-festival circuit, playing for attention-deficient crowds throwing beach balls and dressed like Green Man. Since the Holydrug Couple’s debut EP, Ancient Land (2011), the Santiago band has developed a distinctive sound that moves like water. When I first put on Moonlust, I immediately thought of Serge Gainsbourg’s instrumental version of the song “Cannabis,” which makes sense, as singer-guitarist Ives Sepúlveda has acknowledged being heavily inspired by French movie soundtracks from the ’70s, especially Gainsbourg’s discography. Like their friends in fellow Chilean band Föllakzoid (in which Sepúlveda once played), the Holydrug Couple’s music toys with repetition and motion. Nothing is anxious or frantic. There’s no edge to fall off. No cliffhangers.
“Light or Night” reveals its hook after a few listens, while “If I Could Find You (Eternity)” bounces along on the bass line, letting the other instruments back off. You can never really tell what Sepúlveda is singing about (like Kurt Vile, he’s more concerned with playing with vowels than with lyrics), but that’s not the point of a band like this. They are atmospheric. They create a daydream. The tracks are indistinguishable to someone who isn’t really paying attention. The drums don’t show off, and the synth is quiet but essential. Sepúlveda’s voice wallows along, while the bass lines play the largest melodic role, pulling the songs out of whatever rabbit hole they might fall into. “Baby, I’m Going Away” sounds like a soulful love ballad by the Shangri-Las reinvented by two men on NyQuil. Actually, I’m going to call Moonlust “NyQuil music.” I dig it. Just like bands such as White Poppy, Gretchen Snakes, Psychic Ills and Föllakzoid, the Holydrug Couple pay homage to the rules of psychedelic rock while consciously using modern technology and production. (I’m so over lo-fi. Fuck off with spending $30K to make your record sound like it was recorded in a bathroom sink.)
I not only like Moonlust, I need it. I’m a high-strung person, and this kind of music helps keep me from ramming my car off the freeway. My husband should thank the Holydrug Couple for that, even if the new album isn’t rock enough for him, because if I weren’t here, who else would he have to fuck with? No matter how much speed you take, a Skynyrd poster just don’t talk back.