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Art Fad Debuts with "Vatos"

Review of Caldwell Surf-Punk's Album

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Art Fad, a low-fi drums-and-guitar duo from Caldwell, formed in the spring and played its first show on the patio at Visual Arts Collective shortly after. It was a buzzsaw of noise that reverberated down the alley in a way the soft, indie-pop audience wasn't entirely prepared for.

The band's debut recording, Vatos, was released direct-to-web as a free download on Bandcamp. It stays true to the band's live style: raw, straight-ahead, no-nonsense blends of garage punk and noise pop played at an ADD tempo.

The opening track on Vatos is a blistering 1:47 of raw guitar and reverb-drenched vocals buried in the mix. When it ends, the next song starts up in exactly the same fashion. It's reminiscent of The Ramones' infamous song transitions: 1, 2, 3, 4, next song and repeat--all of them with the same tempo and furious delivery.

Most of Vatos plays out that way, like one continuous blast that halts for nothing.

And while that technique is reminiscent of early Ramones, Art Fad's sound is far rawer than the smooth pop blitzkrieg that reshaped the music of the 1970s. The guitars are higher-pitched, with more snarl than growl and there is no bass. It's a sped-up and strummed down version of the sound pioneered by garage-punk pioneers like The Sonics, as opposed to a turbo-charged version of The Beach Boys. Vatos was recorded by David Wood, the guitar player from local surf-punk band Teens and follows much in its style. Art Fad could almost be the actual teen version of Teens. Go figure.

Though neither of the two members of Art Fad are particularly strong as singers--or innovative as instrumentalists--the spirit in their delivery is fantastic. In the moments where the songs shine through the noise of the production style, there are hints of something far more interesting beneath. There are several moments--mostly at the ends of songs--when the tracks resolve into spacey echoes and wafts of ambient noise that are fantastic. Were there more of them interspersed into the song's arrangements along with the furious pace, Art Fad would be a really compelling band.

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