Static In Verona entertained with the vibrant ‘Some Things You Knew’ EP last year, consisting of five songs which witnessed this one man band from Chicago making as big a pop noise as possible within the confines of some ambient-tinged indie pop. The effect was akin to listening to ELO on a budget and its creator, Rob Merz, has delved into his Big Music Songbook to write a second full album.
A grand, lush opening to the album suggests we’re about to witness royalty enter the building but then comes a reassuring burst of guitars for ringing, atmospheric ‘Bitter Branches’. ‘White Knuckles’ and ‘Look Like Gold’ were among the highlights from the earlier EP and hear they sound stronger still surrounded by anthemic, weightier material. Merz may have a voice which you would expect to be singing lighter material but the pounding drums and grinding guitars on ‘Rosemary (Bury Me)’ prove that he should pursue the heavier side of his arrangements more regularly.
Unfortunately, all this good work makes the inclusion of ‘Roman Candle’ rather mystifying; variety should not be discouraged but this an annoyingly cheery song which you can imagine providing the theme tune to a daytime television programme and it seems totally out of place here. Quibbling aside, ‘Black Windows’ is much more like it, an ambient pop track populated by thick beats and a pretty yet substantial chorus and even though both this track and ‘Friendly Fires’ may be classed as lighter material, the arrangements are satisfyingly fleshed out. Furthermore, the multi-layered ‘Something… Anything’ ascends into dreampop whereas ‘Blindfold’ and ‘Loud Night/Quite Morning’ are big and brash numbers in the familiar ELO mould.
After suggesting Merz should apply a bit more subtlety based on ‘Some Things You Knew’, the lack of subtlety actually pays off in the end with most of the bigger songs justifying the ambition of the production. On an album lasting just short of an hour, the overall effect can be a bit overpowering but Merz’s winning way with his own version of “The Big Music” is admirable.
ELO, The Helio Sequence