What music would you associate with Adonis, the chiseled Greek god of beauty and desire? For my money, it would be the uber-cheesy piano lounge-pop of Barry Manilow. Think about it—all those screaming Fanilows lined up, pretending the casino buffet plates they’re clutching are the muscular arms of their idol. For them, that’s beauty.
But not for us. Those plastic ideas of “perfect” love are just as counterfeit as Barry’s tan. If you know what it’s like to love something, you realize how dirty the whole ordeal can be. Love is grungy. Love is a dirt-stained T-shirt.
When you listen to Toronto’s Odonis Odonis, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with their self-described brand of “surf-gaze.” Luckily, the courting process is short. It won’t be the Hallmark-card love of Adonis, but something stranger. Engage in Odonis Odonis’ latest album, Hollandaze, and let the caustic beach twang of the title track slide into your bloodstream. Soon, you’ll hear leader Dean Tzenos’s distant wails, clamoring in the mix of piercing cymbal noise and distortion. You won’t know what the hell he says, but you’ll stay to find out.
Through 11 songs, Tzenos’s voice tends to crouch beneath grand brick walls of noise. He lets his arrangements howl for themselves, siren-loud guitar blasts punctuating his gurgles on the psyched-up zombie-punkers “White Flag Riot” and “New World.” When tangible syllables actually emerge on the slow-burning and ghostly “Seedgazer,” you realize it’s all been worth it.
An unexpected jewel in the harsh brine of Hollandaze’s musicality is the prominence of rhythm. “Basic Training” and “We Are the Left Overs” both rely on bass grooves to propel the tracks forward, fleshed out by pumping drums.
The meat of Tzenos’ music is how it combines the best of his favorite music from his youth. His sisters exposed him to ‘80s and ‘90s alternative and noise pop—The Jesus and Mary Chain, Big Black and Pixies are all listed on his website as influences. No single source, however, takes up too much space, he writes. Like M83’s Anthony Gonzales, Tzenos cooks up a hearty stew of multiple musical meats, often spanning genres in the same song.
Sure, Hollandaze’s barbed terrain might frighten some away. But hey man, that’s love; getting scorched is just part of the deal. Odonis Odonis isn’t the epitome of stereotypical beauty—it’s messier. But that just makes it more authentic.
Review by Patrick Hosken