XVIII Eyes Streamlines Sound (a Bit Too Much) for Latest Full-length

XVIII Eyes, I’ll Keep You (out now, self-released, xviiieyes.com)

XVIII Eyes is the new, far more gothic-sounding moniker of the band formerly known as Eighteen Individual Eyes. The hard-rock four-piece made the change because the old name was a mouthful and the new one is “straightforward, but still enigmatic.” The music on sophomore full-length I’ll Keep You has also been streamlined and polished compared to its predecessor, 2012’s Unnovae Nights. Though the band’s music was never as abrasive or subversive as its press would have you believe (psychedelic shoegaze this is not, unless the sole criterion for that is owning more than one distortion pedal), the songwriting and production are tighter here. The towering choruses on tracks like “Volcano Surfing,” “I See the Light,” and “Multiples” are some of the album’s clear highlights. So is guitarist/singer Irene Barber’s inspired wailing; her outsized vocals soar over the band’s thick guitar sound. The main problem with I’ll Keep You is its stifling consistency. Every song includes more or less the same structure and elements: mildly overdriven guitars, lead lines that mirror the vocal melodies, and a rhythm section that charges ahead at mid-tempo. On a formal level, these are fine rock songs, but tunes this straightforward need to try harder to be distinctive. For moderately experimental modern rock, you could do a lot worse than I’ll Keep You. Unfortunately, that’s probably the best thing you can say about it. (Thurs., Nov. 14, Chop Suey)

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