Justify Your Existence: Arlo

Up High in the Night(2001)
Stab the Unstoppable Hero(2002)

Must have gotten these two Arlo releases from a SubPop publicist. I’d have to go back and look at SubPop’s catalog releases during the early 2000s to see just how these fit into the stuff the label was putting out. Seems to me that it was between the mid-90s grunge/punk stuff and the later 2000s bearded folk stuff.

Up High in the Night comes across as a mix of Weezer’s Blue album and Local H’s As Good As Dead – it’s grungy-pop music with some darker guitar parts, some raspy vocals but the occasional clean power-pop guitar hook and melody. I think I read somewhere that most of the songs on this debut came from demos that got the band signed and that makes sense.

Stab the Unstoppable Hero washes away the grunge influence and goes full -out power-pop, a style of music that I’ve always dug, but there’s something about this CD that just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe it’s that Arlo reminds me too much of Super-Deluxe, Superdrag, and Teenage Fanclub (all 3 of which I like and own music by). I actually think this is where the band’s heart was always at – maybe the grungy early stuff was a rouse to attract label interest though by the early 2000s, I don’t know if that’s what the labels were looking for.

Of course, the only two MP3s I could find are both from Stab… and both are the rawer-sounding songs which doesn’t back up my opinion that they moved away from grunge-pop to become a power-pop band. “Culture” sounds, to me, a little like Rick Ness (of Fig Dish) playing in a band with J Mascis.

MP3: Culture
MP3: Runaround

Verdict: I decided that Up High in the Night deserves a spot on the CD shelves while Stab the Unstoppable Hero is one that I can afford to part with, at least the physical copy but I’ll probably rip it and save it off to a hard drive (or just listen to it on Spotify where both CDs are available to check out).

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