Review: We Are Childhood Equals – Hearts Ache For Home

There’s this moment at the end of “Hearts Ache for Home,” the title track of the recent We Are Childhood Equals EP, where a jumbled mix of guitar squalor, distortion, and hand-claps gives way to the sound of a girl – or maybe it’s two girls, it’s tough to tell – letting out a brief giggle.

You can almost make out someone talking immediately before the laughter starts, some little tease that a punch-line is being buried and that you’re not supposed to know why the moment happens or what it means.

You’re just supposed to breathe it in and appreciate it while it’s happening.

Much the same could be said of the music that precedes that moment on this addictive little Pop Faction release. The more you dig and try to figure out why the pieces fit together the way they do, the more you miss the point.

The point, of course, is the music itself and We Are Childhood Equals know how they serve it up best.

The EP calls to mind a number of guitar-driven indie rock bands with sharp senses of melody, harmony, dissonance and time. The interwoven guitar and bass lines of Seam (circa Are You Driving Me Crazy?) are all over the record, as is the spare, muted majesty of Bedhead and The New Year. Frank Black’s (or Black Francis’, if you want to get it right) inventive approach to pop-rock guitar feels like an influence, and parallels can clearly be drawn from the EP to the carefully timed stop-and-start bridges of up-and-coming bands like Zykos.

But, like many outfits worth their weight in busted drum sticks and old guitar strings, We Are Childhood Equals knows how to reference and pull the best parts from influences and peers while crafting a sound that is, somewhat decidedly, their own.

The EP begins with “Simple Emancipation,” which gets high marks for its swaying, shimmering guitar lines and careful builds from pensive reflection to more angered pronouncements.

(There’s a somewhat-instrumental bridge three-quarters of the way through that ranks among the record’s finer moments.)

“Dandelion” is a poppy number with more forced vocals that somehow call to mind, if not distantly, the emotive delivery of The Sea and Cake’s Sam Prekop. “Fall,” a surprisingly aggressive tune for the quartet, flirts with reverb-heavy guitar interjections and angry Fugazi post-punk bridges to great effect.

“Hearts Ache for Home” borders, at times, on an angst-ridden anthem but then throws playful handclaps into the mix. Songs like “Plane,” with its viscous bass line, and “Your Head Makes it So,” with its spacey instrumental intro, round out the roster here with choppy, sometimes-dissonant refrains that balance well with Peter D’Alema and Michael Otley’s vocal delivery.

(As an aside, it’s nice to hear a band of We Are Childhood Equal’s sonic ilk that doesn’t solely rely on either whispered vocals or bombastic roars.)

Hearts Ache for Home rounds itself out at six songs, tapering off after your interest is triggered but before your mind starts to wonder.

It’s a solid offering, worth hunting down, and an interesting preview of a full-length that must be around percolating somewhere around the corner. Maybe, once we turn the road, we’ll also find out what those girls were smirking about and if they can tell us why even this EPs in-between moments seem to click. – Delusions of Adequacy, May 3, 2004


About the author

Justin Vellucci is a staff writer for PopMatters, Spectrum Culture, and MusicTAP, a contributor to Pittsburgh Current, and a former staffer for Popdose, Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines such as American Songwriter, alt-pubs like The Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish, Punksburgh and Linoleum, and the Gannett magazine Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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