Young and punctuated, the Chicago outfit Geronimo! do on their self-released debut full-length, Fuzzy Dreams, what American bands do best: they blend genres. In the case of these nine tracks, the trio pulls together the warm distortion of stoner and desert rock and pairs it with an indie or post-punk mindset that gives Fuzzy Dreams a balance of chic presentation and sincerity of delivery. Chicago being a hotbed of post- this and that, it’s not surprising that a trio with such a progressive mindset and focus on individuality would emerge, but it’s worth noting right off the bat that while the bulk of the Windy City’s noted acts of the last few years have had a blisteringly heavy edge to them, Geronimo! are every bit as sonically tender as they are tonally weighted.
It’s a balance they toy with throughout Fuzzy Dreams. In fact, the first 35 seconds of opener “Thunderbattles” pretty much lays the Geronimo! playbook right at your feet. Massive backwards guitar distortion builds up from silence and soon gives way to quiet, individually plucked notes. Those notes eventually lead to the song itself, a catchy beginning for Fuzzy Dreams with a riff that could have come off CKY’s first album or some lost ‘90s alternative masterpiece, but shows Geronimo!’s youth nonetheless in the form of a bouncing back and forth between low and high notes that cuts back on the groove of KJ Blaze’s guitar. “Thunderbattles,” as the name might suggest, is on the heavier end of Geronimo!’s output, with Blaze leading the way on guitar and also adding vocals to those of Benjamin Grigg, who also handles keys and the occasional trumpet and trombone, while Matt Schwerin mans the drums and also does backing vocals. There’s bass on the record, but nobody’s credited with it.
“Design Yourself a Heart” skirts the line of bouncy emo pop more than a song like the later “Approaching the Skyline,” which is more indie, but whatever genre elements their utilizing in these songs, it’s important to not that Blaze, Grigg and Schwerin keep one foot firmly planted on the “rock” switch. Geronimo! has been called grunge in other reviews, and it’s reasonable in the sense of their being heavier than regular alternative pop but not at all metal or what’s commonly thought of as commercial hard rock, though I’d be hard pressed to name a grunge band they sound like, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains and the other standard acts being nowhere near an appropriate sonic point of comparison for Fuzzy Dreams. But I guess everything’s gotta be called something, so there you go.
The angular groove of “Battery Acid Moustache” is playfully confident, and when at 3:30, the track offers its payoff, it’s satisfying. Grigg’s vocals have a natural, unproduced feel that I think it probably what’s drawing the emo assignation in my mind, but he’s not whining about ex-girlfriends or anything like that, and with Blaze and Schwerin backing, there’s plenty of diversity in the singing. “Battery Acid Moustache,” at 7:56 is one of three tracks over seven and three quarters minutes long – the other two being “Deep Warmth” and “Table Legs,” which has about the most straightforward, riff-centric groove Fuzzy Dreams offers. And some horns too, later on.
What impresses most about Geronimo!’s first full-length is that it holds itself together. Fuzzy Dreams moves in many different directions, but by using stoner or fuzz rock (whatever we’re calling it this week) as their starting point, they’re able to maintain cohesion while also exploring other influences, which they do even unto the surprisingly subdued acoustic-led closer “Judgment Day.” There are going to be those for whom Fuzzy Dreams is too indie, and those for whom it’s too heavy. I’m sorry, but that’s the plight of the band straddling lines the way Geronimo! does. Nonetheless, with capable songwriting and a few moments that’ll raise the hair on your arms, Fuzzy Dreams proves an intriguing launch for an obviously inventive band. I’ll stop short of ending this review by calling it “dreamy,” but you should probably know I was thinking about it.
Tags: Chicago, Geronimo!, Illinois, Unsigned bands