You know you’re in for a good time when a record from a band named Total Revenge starts out with the line “Fucking on the lawn.” Ryan Pollie’s latest project, which is really just him, comes a year after his last album under his own name and titled Ryan Pollie and three after his last album as the Los Angeles Police Department. This time around he’s busted out the four-track to record a fuzzy throwback to the days when Wavves and Cloud Nothings were churning out noise from their bedrooms.
Pollie’s purpose this time around isn’t to recreate what he’s already done; Total Revenge is just a side project apparently, but it feels like the most exhilarating material from him in quite some time. “The Lawn” kicks things off with the aforementioned fornicating, but the rugged production gives way to a more raw emotion attached to the coitus. This all rolls perfectly into “Surgery”, a humorously tragic depiction of a co-dependent relationship: “She just spilled my life on the kitchen floor / She keeps telling me I’m a dirty whore / I think the wolf is the best of herself,” but this same woman is paying for his surgeries and his pills, so therein lies the dependency. Not a particularly uplifting song, but funny and sad at the same time.
The blown-out speaker lo-fi feel is something new for Pollie, and it’s a shame that more artists don’t utilize it as much these days. It gives us this feeling of standing there in a basement with stained mattresses lining the walls (which is a good thing). Pollie’s light vocals give it a near-twee glaze, but he never fully embraces his inner Stephen Merritt.
With “The Fair”, the first single released from the album, Pollie taps into some Deerhunter-like effects before giving us an alternative timeline where The Ataris are more punk than emo. This is the endearing aspect of Total Revenge, a tight 20-or-so minutes of fun across 10 cuts that soundtrack a bizarre summer of young love and early heartbreak.
Much of Total Revenge feels displaced from another time time, with “Cherry Red” and “Upper Saddle River” sounding like a 50s garage band just playing around, as Pollie merely coos through both for around a minute each. Meanwhile “Willow Tree” is just the line “It’s a willow tree” over and over again as reverb and distortion rumble in the background like Pollie’s living in 1995 and tossing out ideas to Phil Elverum for a new Microphones record. This isn’t to say that Total Revenge is a bust either as a result, it’s merely far removed from the current trends of indie rock, which thus makes it stand out.