By Layla Marino
Folk and blues were the first genres to be mined for their creative spark, as exemplified by Jack White, Mumford and Sons and the Arctic Monkeys. The indie artists of today then began their sacking of vintage stores everywhere for old synthesizers to re-create the haunting new wave sounds of the 80s.
It only follows that the next genre to be pilfered would be grunge. Unlike some bands who only got the bright idea to appropriate the feedback-and-integrity-driven sounds of the early 90s, Fountain Valley’s The Torn Images have been drawing influence from grunge and early indie rock for a few years, since 2012.
Reviver, The Torn Images’ third full-length album, aims to bring rock, and most noticeably 90s alternative rock, back to indie music. The Torn Images consists of founder Braind Arabaca on vocals and guitars, Jonathan O’Brien, who plays a number of instruments in the band and produced Reviver, guitarist Andy Hernandez and Tyler DeYoung on drums. The band has done some shapeshifting over their short tenure in the music industry, but they nonetheless have managed to release three full-length albums and two EPs. Reviver was released in mid-November 2014 and contains a number of styles from hard rock to the afore-mentioned grunge.
The first few tracks on the album provide the most insight into its overall style and feel. Listeners shouldn’t let the opening track on Reviver, a slightly basic and amateurish-sounding track called “The Drifting” deter them. Despite the poor composition on this song, it’s clear what Arabaca and the crew are trying to achieve and it very nearly comes off.
The guitar solo on this track almost makes up for the rest of the song, and this is where Braind Arabaca’s main talent lies throughout the album. His guitar is pure, clear, and can handle a number of styles. Heavily influenced by 90s British guitarists, in this song Arabaca’s solo may remind listeners of Noel Gallagher or Brian Futter of Catherine Wheel.
As the album moves on, things get much better. Some of the intros are a little bit rough, but the second track, “Mantle of Disguise” pulls off the hard rock/grunge combo the band were aiming for in “The Drifting.” Once again the guitar solo is stellar and a sort of “wall of sound” quality, also popular in 90s alternative rock is a pleasantly nostalgic surprise on the backing track. “Out of Control (Into the Void)” has a charming Oasis-like backing riff and drum rhythm and captures early 90s minimalistic grunge very well.
The fourth track, called “Nearly Lost You” has a bit of an unfortunate name in this reviewer’s opinion, as that is the name of a very popular Screaming Trees song from the 90s. Oddly, “Out of Control (Into the Void)” sounds a bit like the original. Someone seems to be getting sub-genres confused, but they’re both decent tracks nonetheless.
The shining star of the album and the recommended track for this band is called “Aimless Breath.” In all ways, this track showcases The Torn Images’ potential. More than any other track on the album, “Aimless Breath” features Arabaca’s guitar strength the most. It also strikes the balance between hard rock and grunge to which the band clearly aspires. The composition is clean, and the key the song is written in perfectly compliments Arabaca’s sometimes odd-sounding Marilyn Manson/Cliff from Citizen Dick (a fictional band in the 1992 Cameron Crowe flim “Singles”) hybrid voice.
Combining 90s sub-genres and making them relevant to modern audiences is tricky business, and The Torn Images have produced a largely well-rounded and interesting work in Reviver. Braind Arabaca’s guitar is a highlight throughout the album, and while his vocal timbre seemed a little off in places, his lyrics were poignant and truthful. Now that he has his backing band in place, The Torn Images are sure to iron out whatever kinks may be there with the new lineup and come together in a great alt. rock revival effort. Get it? Revival, Reviver…OK never mind.
All of The Torn Images’ releases are available to stream or purchase on their Bandcamp site, iTunes or right on their website. They also have a number of music videos on their YouTube channel, again exhibiting the band’s incredible work ethic. Amassing this much work in less than two years is indeed impressive, and no doubt The Torn Images will continue to improve and gain more notice on the indie scene.