The Loud Bangs - Salvation Memorial Hospital (EP Review)


For a band that released 6 5-song EPs in 2022 (!!), Angeleno shoegaze outfit The Loud Bangs don't sound spent on the finale Salvation Memorial Hospital. Shoegaze is the de facto 'in' genre of alternative music. The explosion of shoegaze bands may send millennials shouting cultural appropriation, but shoegaze may be more relevant than ever in a post-Covid, constant-scroll world. The Loud Bangs must be staring at their pedalboards/computers/whatever-that-sound-is while playing their washed-out and highly stylized music. Led by the musical imagination of guitarist, singer and artist Alice Street, the band is made up of guitarist Daisy Gutierrez, bassist Hannah Remly and drummer Marcus Nemuro. 

The twenty-one-minute EP opens with "Spectral Field", which is an expressionistic blend of swirling guitar tones, repetitively hypnotizing rhythms and mysterious vocals so low and affected in the mix it's impossible to make out the lyrics, instead tempting the listener into its dreamy, buzzed-out, hot-box of sound. "Late Day Magnets" may be a messily assembled song full of distractions, but it's also mind-bending and surreal, switching from bizarro soul pop to long instrumental passages. Listening feels like driving at night and flipping between the stations, picking up a collage of bubblegum pop, krautrock, and the news, except it's 1995, and you've just watched Clueless at the movie theatre. "Candy Sometimes Always" is a beautifully abstract and illusory piece glued together by persistent, grounding drums. Super impactful in its ambiguity, the track sneaks up on you; its menacing melancholy makes you wonder why you're feeling things, almost as if by subtle mind control. It is undoubtedly the highlight of this EP and the first song I've fallen in love with in 2023. 

Without the big guitar sound of the other tracks, the directionless "Future Bruises" lulls about for half of its existence before deciding to pop its head out of the soil to say hello, not much else, then head back underground; odd yet somehow also unmemorable. The scattershot "Playboy Tattoo" has delicious drums, atmospheric turns to electronic rock, and musically-manipulated-by-pitch vocals that disorient the listener as the track builds to earth-shattering intensity, surprisingly without losing its innate sense of frailty; the eggshell foundations upon which these songs are based.

With a more patient and stricter editorial hand, the group's prolific 2022 output could've been streamlined into a definitive album for shoegaze's second invasion. Instead, we have staggered servings of blissful and strange pop-leaning shoegaze that house precious gems and a few note-worthy collectibles. "Who needs lyrics to convey emotion?" asks Street in the band's press material. It's a good question, if not a strawman. While much has been written on the philosophical differences between representational music, i.e. with lyrics, and non-representational music, The Loud Bangs live in a border town between these modes of expression, a place they've decorated with frills, inventiveness, and hidden patches of soulful emotion. Certainly worth a visit, even if the locals are incomprehensible.