There’s more to Texas-based trio Ringo Deathstarr than an incredibly clever band name. Formed by guitarist and singer Elliot Frazier in 2007, the band has toured with the Smashing Pumpkins and earned comparisons to pioneers of the shoegaze sound, such as The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. With quite a few EPs as well as full-lengths already under its belt, the band has now put out its strongest album to date with “Pure Mood.” There isn’t much variation among the tracks on the album, which was released Nov. 20, but clearly, a lot of effort was put into choosing the right tones and effects for the project, creating an artful set of songs. Furthermore, the consistently faraway vocals of “Pure Mood” exude the kind of aloof attitude one would expect from a relatively unknown indie band. The rest of the sonic space, however, is filled with heavy riffage and bass grooves, establishing the band’s fourth studio album as a sure-to-be shoegaze staple.
The opening track, “Dream Again,” starts the album out with light vocals and guitars. It’s dreamy, as the title suggests, and makes for a slow — and perhaps misleading — introduction to the album. Harmonized coos and spacey reverb render a gentle trance to which one could easily doze off. Thus, the next track, “Heavy Metal Suicide,” is a startling follow-up, bringing in a thunderous drumbeat and snarling guitars to offset the initial lull of the album. In typical shoegaze fashion, the vocals remain distant and spectral even through the grungy wall of sound. Quite an impactful introduction, it sets a high standard for the rest of the album — one the band manages to match several times.
“Big Bopper” is a mid-album highlight, with dizzying verses and gigantic choruses. The repetitious melody of the verses makes the listener’s head spin, only to be jolted when heavily distorted guitars enter the mix. The rest of the song continues with a confident swagger, with guitar feedback and fret noise accenting each step. Layers of bent notes and brief yet tactfully placed key changes give the composition a lot of movement, a necessary complement to the fat guitar and bass sound.
The fuzzy bass intro of “Frisbee” marks another standout track, featuring a slightly off-kilter guitar riff and more ghostly vocals in the intro saying “Feed your head.” These soft melodies, sung by bassist Alex Gehring, are juxtaposed with Frazier’s grittier style, creating a nice back and forth. “Never” is another intense number from the end of the album, with powerful drum fills and trippy guitar overdubs. Gehrig and Frazier sing together in the verses, taking on an angry intonation. The best part of the song, however, might be the wonderfully noisy guitar solo, which channels all the frustration felt during the rest of the song into a few haphazard seconds. Weird noises peer out of the void during the last verse, which ends quite abruptly, leading into an outro of a woman profusely cursing someone out.
Album closer “Acid Tongue” is a catchy song with an abundance of energy, which makes for a great finale. However, there seems to be a tense backbone to the song. Throughout, there’s a feeling of things coming apart at the seams, with unsettling bends, which eventually lead into a hyper breakdown. Frazier sings, “Don’t need a gun / But I got one,” contributing to this feeling. The end of the song is an outlandish melee of guitars that withers away into a sudden end.
“Pure Mood” is the culmination of Ringo Deathstarr’s previous works, fully committing to the shoegaze sound, and craftily, at that. For those who have never heard of the trio, the new album serves as a memorable introduction, full of mammoth riffs and dreamy vocals.