Even with as much retrospective reappropriation has been done with various 90s alt-rock conventions, much of the guitar rock that builds itself on the decade has a selective memory. The complicated diversity of 90s alternative and underground music has been co-opted into a few precious conventions. Bands pay tribute to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Green Day, and Weezer as if they were the only bands making music then. There’s been more awareness recently, with more underground movements like shoegaze, dream pop, and Midwest emo gaining massive followings in the last half a decade or so.
But these distill a highly edited version of the 90s musical landscape that omits the popularity of a certain brand of jangling guitar pop that was just too damn catchy to resist, even if it wasn’t entirely cool at the time.
I’m talking bands like Letters to Cleo, who seemed to have been relegated to languish in obscurity until Parks and Recreation shined the spotlight back on them (though as an example of the kind of obscure cult band that lovable nerd Ben Wyatt would still be obsessed with years after it was fashionable, if it ever was).
Norway’s Onsloow likely did need the sitcom to remind them about that aesthetic though. Their self-titled debut captures the same sort of rollicking, jubilant pop sensibility that enjoys itsef without seriousness or self-consciousness—and invites the listener into the same sort of geeky joy. It’s a perfect get for the tape-focused Friend Club Records, as this is the sort of album that sounds tailor made for blasting on your Walkman.
Every song is packed to the gills with hooks so irresistible they could ensnare even the most passive listener. The tempos typically sit around a brisk 130bpm, the rhythm section often augmented by hand claps and tambourines. The rubbery guitar lines are perpetually overdriven to a glossy fuzz to keep the shoegazers happy.
And while I usually would have dropped a couple standout tracks by now, this is the sort of bewitching pop music that makes each track as good as the next. So you should just listen to the whole thing yourself—it’s only a blissful thirty minutes, but it demands repeat listens.
Follow the band on Instagram.S/T by Onsloow