Bars of Gold – Of Gold!
The press release for Of Gold, the debut release from Michigan’s Bars of Gold, is almost overwhelming in its hyperbolic excitement. It’s a bit of a turn-off if I’m honest, but then I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian wanker when it comes to marketing. In fairness, though, this is the new project from Bear Vs. Shark’s Marc Paffi (vocals) and Brandon Moss (drums). BVS never really struck a chord with me but friends are fans, and you’ve got to give a nod to any band namechecked in a Good Clean Fun song, right?
Anyhow, a band should always be judged on its own merits. Of Gold doesn’t begin that strongly, opening with the cutesy ‘Boss Level’. From gentle beginnings it segues into a Casio riff with bass and drums, obviously going for a sort of videogame pastiche. It’s not a bad tune but nor is it at all memorable.
Fortunately it’s followed by the excellent ‘Heaven Has a Heater’, which manages to be edgy and somewhat unpredictable yet simultaneously hooky and eminently danceable. Paffi’s weird, frantic vocal style works really well here. The whole song is built of components that shouldn’t really mesh together, yet they do – which is true of much of the album.
Next up are ‘Birds’ and ‘The Hustle’ featuring, oh hell yes, some banjo action. The latter is the more exciting of the two tunes, juxtaposing banjo and fiddle with a pounding electronic drum kit – another unexpected mix that shouldn’t, on the face of it, work. Both songs exhibit something which comes through still more clearly in ‘Doctors & Lawyers’ – a funk-inspired rhythm that recalls 80s post-punk like the seminal Gang of Four as well as the early post-hardcore scene driven by Dischord records (both possibly also a source of inspiration for Paffi’s unique vocals).
There are plenty more unexpected moments still to come, from the conclusion of relentless floor-pounder ‘Up, Up, Up’ with its incongruous whistling and dated electronic effects through to the laid-back ‘Cannibals’, a restrained and more traditional number blending soft synth and delicate guitars with those unique vocals.
Of Gold has proven a genuine surprise to me; an experimental album that manages to be a huge amount of fun rather than getting bogged down in its own seriousness, and rewards repeat listens by being both interesting and intensely catchy. It’s not the most consistent record in the world but it has a lot to offer, and is well worth your time.