Straight-ahead summertime rock’n’roll with a definite cool streak—a three-chord headbanger channeled through a soundscape at once dense and sleek. (I’m tempted to call it “fudgy,” for some reason). Bonus points for the unflappable vocals which sound like boy-girl but are front man Shaun Hencher singing in various registers with himself. I call this a must-listen for any Elastica fans who linger out there, and if that doesn’t mean anything to you, I ask you why not? Like that late, great British band, Virals offers up an irresistible blend of punk-ish power and effortless self-possession.
“Gloria” features either three simple but insistent hooks or three variations of one simple but insistent hook; it’s difficult to say. There are heavy-duty power chords and incisive lead lines. There’s unrelenting cymbal. And the most defining element, to my ears, is how each melodic line ends with a veer towards a place that isn’t unresolved as much as, somehow, ironic. This has a lot to do with the harmonies Hencher selects, in all cases a beguiling blend of his upper and lower register, the melody elusively flowing from one to the other.
Virals is a new project for Hencher, previously known (perhaps) as front man for the band Lovvers. It began as a studio-only, one-man-band kind of thing but Hencher has since formed a live band to take Virals on the road. “Gloria” is from the debut EP Coming Up With the Sun, released in May, on London-based Tough Love Records. MP3 via Austin Town Hall.