There's something almost intoxicating about the new record from Texas group Holy Wave. As it unfolds, things start to blur, and you're left feeling buzzed and slightly uninhibited. From the opening key run and jazzy percussive gallop of "Nation in Regress," you're hooked, compelled to further explore its often murky but inviting atmospheres of shoegaze adaptations and dreamy, psych-tuned tides. It's a record that rewards repeated listens, if only to pick out the nuance that can't be uncovered through a superficial investigation of its opaque complexity. The band has a particular fondness for shimmering, tremulous guitars and reverberating keys, which works well they're dragging their '60s and '70s pop influences into the spotlight.
There's a maturity and earned confidence here that allows them to develop and expand the psych and surf sounds of their last record, 2016's "Freaks of Nurture," which admittedly swam in the same general waters but felt far more indebted to the sounds of "Nuggets" compilations and decades-old West Coast pop. But with tracks like "How Was I Supposed to Know" and "David's Flower," the band finds a comfortable home not just rehashing the past but reinterpreting its relevance in a modern setting. The vocals are still slightly muddied and used more for mood, but they're an intrinsic part of what makes the record so disarmingly effective.
The title track is a pure blast of '60s nostalgia, evoking the weirdo pop sounds of ? and the Mysterians while tracing a direct connection from those scuffed-up garage-pop sounds to the rise of shoegaze in the late '80s. They're not so dissimilar after all. The density isn't the same of course, but Holy Wave makes a compelling case that without those earlier bands the rhythms of shoegaze, jangle-pop and dream-pop would sound quite a bit different. Their work can occasionally get a bit fog-addled, with melodies becoming subsumed by the band's need to evoke a certain familiar noise from time to time -- just imagine Cocteau Twins jamming with The Shadows of Knight and you've got a fair idea of what Holy Wave is peddling.
"Adult Fear" is a record beset by its influences, but one that also rises above that weighted presence to create an identity all its own. It's impossible not to hear the touchstones bred into every track, but the band manages to turn those sounds to their own advantage, reveling in reinvention rather than imitation. It's a fascinating glimpse into the past that reveals just bound the future is to its musical echoes. Listening to "Adult Fear" just might make you want to pull out those old records by The Standells and Count Five, but that's not such a bad thing, is it? By reverently adapting their inspirations, Holy Wave has built both an homage to, and an expansion of, their creative inclinations, finding new and viable ways to present the sounds of the past without becoming burdened by their considerable gravity.