Of all the silly sub-genres barfed onto music critics' pages to describe the influx of lo-fi bands in the late '00s, I'd have to say "peach-fuzz" was my favorite. It was an apt description of many of the bands that were garnering buzz around the time of the Great Recession. The hallmarks of peach-fuzz are likely what you'd expect: distorted, shoegazey guitars, show-boating bass lines and a troubled, affected singer whose voice is often treading just above the minimalist recording techniques.
Such is the case with local quartet Voice Actor who recently released their debut album on, naturally, cassette tape (it comes with an MP3 download code for those who haven't completely doubled-down on analog romanticism quite yet). When it comes to the lazy music review refrain of "Voice Actor sounds like _________ mixed with ______," there are plenty of bands to choose from; Joy Division, Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Ride, early Cure or more recent acts such as Interpol, John Maus and No Joy.
Album opener "Arms Break" goes through the post-punk motions predictably enough, but it's a testament to the band's raw talent that they've somehow managed to make something so familiar sound surprisingly spry. However, it's not until the nearly anthemic fourth song, "Extinction," that the listener really gets a sense of just how good this band can be. While most of the song is driven by dueling bass and drums, it all breaks down into a sweeping crescendo that's straight out of a Sofia Coppola movie. The same goes for "New Love," a tender, somnolent ballad that slides into a droning fuzz of distortion just as frontman Timothy McCann is about to lull you to sleep.
So, yeah, Voice Actor isn't doing anything particularly novel or groundbreaking on Runaway , but what they are doing is good enough to overlook any blatant derivativeness. To get bogged down in the band's influences is to miss the point. Sometimes we just want to hear some fuzzed-out, heartfelt rock with some sad, low-voiced bastard singing our life in four minutes or less. And that's a good thing.