We would be remiss not to recommend this blowout of a show that is happening at The Space February 4th at 6 PM. Not only is the Vortex Remover’s Album Release Party for their forthcoming Rawkward Phase – a release that is two and half years in the making – but this is going to be a crazy lineup of great local rock bands, with a touring group on the bill for good measure. MARC & the Horsejerks, Summer Eyes, Saucy Yoda, Bullets or Balloons, City of Pieces and Hank porch with all all be playing, and will be an all-ages event until 9 PM. If you are a fan of local music and want to catch a lot of it in one night, there is no where else to be, frankly.
Rawkward Phase may be many things for people who want to try and categorize this two-piece who “play kooky instruments,” but to Peter DeGroot & Rob Groves, this album is a labor of love, first and foremost. While they took their time to meticulously record their songs, they also suffered a massive data loss, where half of their work was lost completely at a key point in production. These kinds of setbacks – things you can’t control, and can’t prepare for – can ruin projects like this. But Peter and Rob pressed on, and they are finally able to reveal the results, all this time later. In a way, that makes Rawkward Phase that much more special; Vortex Remover just could not give up on this album.
At first listen, Rawkward Phase might seem like a novelty record, and some of the song titles (and the album name, for that matter) might make you lean in that direction. A song titled “[value zero is not a valid name]” shows up in three different forms, and “I Keep Pressing the Spacebar but Nothing is Happening,” is about as meta as you can get on a record like this. Those of us familiar with most recording software are laughing, but the lyrics are what sell the song: “Talking apes on a tiny spinning particle / in a great big nothing.” It’s about as angular a way you can address outer space – and human futility – in a little pop song with a silly title. As usual, there’s much more in the Vortex than at first glance.
But there are certainly jokes, and perhaps more than on your average record. Track 8 is called “8,” after all. But even songs like, “I’m a Weird and Pathetic Creature and Nobody Wants me,” and their interest in mythical creatures saying things in their “Mr. Manticore” and “Mr. Minotaur” pair – these songs reveal an interest in musical ideas that are just as important as the content of a typical rock music, even if they only know how to deliver it with post-irony filling the spacious production. “Box of trash / secret stash / priceless artifacts,” captures a sort of slice of life that is both ridiculous and all too real to a person with boxes of such priceless artifacts, all going straight to the dumpster when I pass from this universe. We are all hoarders, and we all think our own garbage is so important. Vortex Remover understands that not only is the mundanity of everyday life full of very silly moments, but that these moments are just as important as meeting girls and going on dates, and all the other stuff you find in typical rock songs.
“An organism needs to be more cybernetic,” they say, as drum machines and studio effects help bring these plaintive singing voices to life. And to be fair, there is something a little mechanical about the music. This is absolutely home-recorded, but that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Vortex Remover have eschewed typical production sounds and arrangements for a minimalist, stripped-down album that is 100% their sound, without feeling empty, or missing something. There’s almost a little Young Marble Giants in their sound, if you tempered it with early Ween and Harvey Danger. Putting this on, you get the sense that this is entirely personal, entirely entertaining, and entirely appropriate for these two guys. We are just lucky enough to share in the music.
This is Vortex Remover, at their best, and you can hear these songs – and a whole lot more – on February 4th. I think this album – and this show – will be absolutely essential for anyone looking for something to do this Saturday.