Transparent, the crate-digging label which has shone its light on the likes of Perfume Genius, Washed Out and Active Child, has again plucked a lone-star from the American wilderness and brought us their first full length album release courtesy of Cleveland, Ohio‘s Herzog.
Herzog is the name under which Nick Tolar plies his trade. Hand-crafting Search in his apartment and back yard, his songs have a laconic feel that wouldn’t be out of place in the sort of US indie movie where the pretty girl with emotional baggage falls for the awkward and introspective guy from across the hall. You know the ones, they hang out in cool places looking cool and mumbling to one another about their lives, all the while Herzog are playing in the background soundtracking the shots of longing and late night wandering.
Tolar does not come across like your stereotypical hipster though. If anything he sounds old and grizzly, as if there are 15 albums of this material that have gone ignored over the past 20 years. Switching between two styles, Search comprises tender ballads that wear their heart for all to see, and big distorted pop jams J Mascis would be proud of. Whilst the likes of Yu(c)k and Smith Westerns (both also Transparent acts) might have the latter on lockdown, there is something about Tolar’s seemingly wise old head that adds an authenticity and depth to his music, saving it from mere pastiche.
‘Abandon Love’ opens up like the long lost Willy Mason, all autumnal colours and deft acoustic strumming. Tolar’s voice is rich and speaks of experience, seemingly at its best on the stripped down moments of this album like ‘Slowest Romance’ and ‘Steady Hands’. Though lacking a really beautiful knock out punch the basic elements to what Herzog create clearly come from an honest and emotionally fractured place.
It is the glam stomping fuzz pop that grabs the headlines on Search though; with the hits coming at a rate of knots. The likes of ‘Town to Town’ and ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ bring to mind the aforementioned Dinosaur Jr as well as staple names like Hüsker Dü, their chugging guitars battling with naggingly infectious choruses and fist pumping melodies. ‘Living Alone’ lifts the blanket of fuzz from around Tolar’s shoulders and combines the tender sweetness of the slower section of ‘Search’ with the faster, more instant side thus creating a venn-diagram like central sweet point. That’s said when things get really heavy, as on ‘Paul Blart and The Death Of Art’, Herzog sounds at his most triumphant.
“I dreamed I would be a star, the reality is I play in bars” sings Tolar on ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ charmingly missing the point that playing these songs in dingy dives is precisely the down to earth charm that makes him a star.
7David Renshaw's Score