LOVE LANGUAGE – Indian Cowboy EP

On their 2021 EP ‘Trying To Reach You’ Canadian alt-rock band Love Language found themselves dabbling with a number of different styles. On the release’s lead track ‘Design’, they gleefully placed a sixties pop twang beneath a lax vocal that created something that sounded like Kim Gordon fronting a surf rock band. Throughout ‘Lucked Out’, they took the 90s slacker vibe and fused it with music that never seemed a million miles away from Cowboy Junkies supplied with extra reverb. It was one of those EPs where, no matter where you dropped in, the music had a pleasingly nostalgic feel, whilst still feeling relevant.

In some ways, the post-lockdown Love Language entertain with more of the same on this second release, but there’s a feeling of increased confidence in the material. That occasionally comes through in louder music, but also seems present in a louder vocal. Occasionally, that vocal gets a little more wayward than before, but when the material works, it shows off a band latching onto their sounds with a real strength. Between deep echoing guitar lines, a few Pixies-esque bass parts and some gloriously loose vocals, Love Language reawaken the ghosts of 90s alternative with some real guts.

‘Leave The Province’ wastes no time in re-introducing that distinctive Kim Gordon-ish vocal from before, and singer Tashiina Buswa sounds in control throughout. As good as her performance is, its the music that wins out, though, when the guitars combine the garage rock rhythms of a slower Mudhoney number with the Americana twang of Grant Lee Buffalo. With some fine echoing lead colouring the music, the band take a rootsy sound somewhere familiar to alt-rock fans, but never lose sight of a strangely traditional feel, and once the drums kick in midway, the groove holds firm and a pumping bass gives Love Language a real heart. Leading off with a slightly darker guitar tone, the title cut brings more of the same, except this time the vocal intersperses a brattish tone with some higher toned wails, reminiscent of some of the more melodic bands on the King Pizza label. It doesn’t take long before the simple melodies take root around a rattling drum part, and if it weren’t clear enough before, this showcases a band fully able to recycle some 90s indie rock tropes in a way that still feels sparky. Of particular note during these two minutes are some busy basslines half buried beneath a loud guitar, a short lead guitar break that pushes the reverbed tones to the fore, and an unexpected – possibly unintentional – homage to Jenny Lewis in a couple of the vocal shifts.
In some ways, although the band have shown an ability to be more melodic previously, this track is a more effective signifier of their hybrid sound.

The EP’s standout cut ‘New Power’ takes more of a post-punk twist. The tempo is cranked to allow for a really punchy early 80s bassline which is wrapped around another hard jangling riff. This alone captures the band at the musical best, even before Tashiina applies a really natural vocal that mixes sharp spoken word elements with an off-kilter croon. The natural production values lend the music a pleasing live in the studio feel, and although it’s never quite as noisy, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect from a band whose main promotional photograph recreates the sleeve of Slint’s much celebrated ‘Spiderland’ album. On the surface, more alt-rock powers ‘New Money’, except, here, knowingly or not, Love Language inject some of the repetitious energies of Wet Leg into their by now established melodies, and the chiming guitar lines that add a new wave-ish lilt to the indie rock are very welcome. A few of the louder vocals threaten to kill everything, but it’s never long before the main riff takes over, bringing a few classic indie rock noises via Pavement and their ilk to drive everything brilliantly. This track shows that Love Language’s arrangements don’t all work flawlessly, but therein lies some of the charm – there’s a raggedness here that’s carefree, and its better to have character than to sound utterly bored or faceless. Last up, ‘Passerby’ pushes the vocal even further, but the music remains very cool thanks to an increased bass volume and the return of the surf inspired twang from the previous EP. The near mis-marriage between the music and a voice that slides between Kim Gordon’s sass and a deliberately off-key wail revisits some of the 90s’ artier acts, but there’s plenty within Love Language’s recycling of Daisy Chainsaw and Pixies that will still entertain those with a fondness for nostalgia.

On these five tracks, this band shows how natural music made with passion can be so much more interesting than polished indie perfection, and at the material’s best, listeners will discover something that’s both nostalgic and somehow fresh, sharp and angry, yet still capturing a strange nod to Americana via some spooked out melodies. Those ideas are as juxtaposed as the titular ‘Indian Cowboy’ and might take a few plays to get your head around, but this EP is definitely worth the effort.

March 2023