The Postelles: ...And It Shook Me
As is the case with any New York-based rock band with a slightly retro sound, The Postelles’s greatest curse is that they will inevitably be compared with The Strokes. The fact that their self-titled debut album was produced by none other than Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. does little to alleviate that baggage.
Whereas almost every track on their first album appeared to mine the same garage rock revivalist sounds that defined early Strokes albums, The Postelles of And It Shook Me feel as though they have less to prove. The result is a sound that leans more heavily on the band’s inherent strengths—constructing light, poppy hooks that augment singer Daniel Balk’s equally upbeat vocal stylings. Title track and album opener “…And It Shook,” for instance, eschews the electric riffing prevalent in The Postelles in favor of an acoustic guitar intro that builds to the kind of bright, sing-along chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place on a New Pornographers/A.C. Newman record.
That’s not to say The Strokes moments are entirely absent. Both “Caught by Surprise” and “You Got Me Beat” bounce along with the propelling beat and swagger of a post-Is This It? track. Where The Postelles truly draw the line in these comparisons is in their presentation. While The Strokes built their music (and stage) personas by adopting a laid-back, too-cool-for-school attitude that bordered on disengaged, The Postelles make no attempt to disguise neither their enthusiasm nor the excitement that they get from playing their music. They’re happy to be here and want you to know it.
As such, one would be tempted to, on a cursory listen, assume that the band’s lyrical content complements their upbeat, lively image. Quite the opposite, in fact. Almost every song on .And It Shook Me either harps on some distinctively toxic relationship or analyzes the brutalizing times after said relationship runs its course. Featuring guest vocals courtesy of Alex Winston,“Pretend It’s Love,” for instance, takes the “man and woman vocalists argue via exchanging verses” structure that one would normally associate with a playful he- said-she-said novelty song and delivers an effective illustration of a couple at the end of its rope.
That’s not to say every track on And It Shook Me is Blood on the Tracks/Here, My Dear material. If the album has a major downside, in fact, it would be the blatant simplicity of the lyrics. For the most part, such a style feels appropriate. After all, obtusity and esoteric references would feel quite out of place in such poppy contexts. Still, they do have their moments. “Sweet Water,” in particular, contains some real groaners. “Because I would love a drink of your sweet, sweet water/ If you will share my pain," Balk sings. "Cuz I won’t go if you won’t go / and I won’t ebb if you don’t flow.” That’s veering dangerously close to Chris Martin territory there (and that’s coming from someone who likes Coldplay but can acknowledge their rather silly wordplay).
…And It Shook Me may not be a game-changer, but what it does show is a group attempting to shed the shackles of its influences and take one step closer to embracing its own identity. And that’s something that should be admired.