Holy Wave

When you listen to Freaks of Nurture, the latest LP from El Paso bred Holy Wave, you can’t help but think that, if alive during the pinnacle of Haight-Ashbury’s time, the five-piece would have found themselves easily at home with the influences of Aleister Crowley. Heck, they might be right now as far as we know. But idle postulation aside, the band’s latest effort seems to culminate on their previous releases in a way that’s arguably their strongest output to date. By no means is this a capstone work though. Holy Wave, three album releases into their life, seem to be just gearing up.

An initial listen to the album makes one thing very clear – the A-side and the B-side serve as a balancing act. Sure, they hold similarities, and the album flow is there. A few more listens though, and the dualities become even more apparent. Freaks of Nurture opens in a way that suggest the band is going to go on a rolling, casual stroll, whereas the track’s flipside feels like the antithesis. “She Put a Seed in my Ear,” the former track, is a deserted, dusty road that eventually leads to waves. Organs add a layer to burying the vocals in a deeper fuzz. However, the latter track, “Air Wolf,” composes itself in a bigger, clearer sound. It’s like a confidence has grown in spite of what has happened (which we will get to at the end). Be ready for the thrust forward on the track, too, as it will completely suck you in.

“Wendy Go Round” is like a slow motion spinning camera watching over you as you’re lying down. The dreamlike sequence is unshakeable, but you don’t want to rid yourself of it either. Sounds rise just a bit, but they softly calm themselves down almost as quickly. However, the peppiness of “Our Pigs,” the second track on the other side, brought about with each strike of the tom makes you feel like strutting through the most luminescent of days. Playful what-if scenarios abound (“Wish I had a friend as rich as you”), and it seems like the band wants to be pals, and how could you not abide?

Interestingly, on both “Western Playland” and “Sir Isaac Nukem,” their side’s respective third tracks, the mood becomes a bit more somber, you reach for your sweater, and a whirl of sluggishness sticks around. “Western Playland” has a drum beat that walks with a tightly focused guitar. Looping chords leave you pondering everything from the here and now to the furthest memory that needs dusting off.

The only track on the first side that you might consider a scorcher of a tune is “You Should Lie,” which is surf punk through and through. “If you don’t like the truth, you should lie” is sung, and we can only fathom that maybe it’s about making your own way in the world, maybe it’s about convincing yourself things are better than they are, or maybe the song is literally about lying. You look at the penultimate track of the second side though, and you get a more trancelike state. Mysticism is present, whether it’s practiced or just admired, and it feels dangerous in an exciting way.

When the first half of the album ends with “California took my Bobby Away,” you start to worry about the path the album might head down emotionally. This is a concern quickly halted by what we mentioned about “Air Wolf,” but the arrangement of the music plays like a setting sun. Whoever Bobby was, the band seems content to kick rocks and drag their emotional feet through existence. Swirling synth acts like the audible version of recollections. It’s easy to pass it off as ‘slacker’, but you can tell there’s some deep feeling to it. But album closer “Minstrel’s Gallop?” you better believe that the warbling organ gives an inviting tone that doesn’t feel like the end. A new start in safety seems to open a door in the closing moments.

Freaks of Nurture is out now, and you can get it through the link or at your local record store. Joey Smith