ESM Rating: 7/10
“Suds! All over me! Suds! I want to be clean!” Not exactly the opening line you’d expect from a buoyant garage-rock EP released by Portland’s W.H. Walker. But getting scrubbed clean by this jingling, jangling, doo-wop crooning, slightly grimey seven-song album isn’t so bad after all, since you’ll come away from it feeling more like you’re living on a street full of off-kilter ‘60s pop aficionados cohabitating with dangerous late ’70s punk types. After “Suds!,” “As The Night Goes” combines elements of War’s harmonious choruses with The Who’s explosive classic rock, doling out the best two-song album opener I’ve heard in some time.
But beyond that, Suds! stumbles a bit. “Saving Every Secret” is choppy, chiming, charming, and aggressive all at once, as lead singer Devin Clark’s pebble-strewn pipes try to keep up with W.H. Walker’s jumbled yet endearing guitar attack. That song is also the longest on the album, and it seems to halt the short record’s otherwise infectious energy. “The Untold Death Of Grady Jones” is similarly all over the place, but its cowbell fills, epic doo-wop choruses, handclaps, and ringing percussion do somehow coalesce into a beautiful little ditty by song’s end. And “Watch Your Step” is a shambolic lo-fi mess that sounds phoned in from a distant eight-track player. But I’m willing to bet that in a live setting it would probably incite a minor dance-floor riot.
“Don’t Let Me Go” is much more immediate, with a guitar crunch that seems to jump out of the speaker and impassioned lyrics sounding like they could soundtrack Dazed & Confused 2. And then Suds! closes out with the excellent “Second Hand Store,” a rousing little number that alights in emo rock, punkabilly, ‘70s pop, and even The Strokes territory over three and a half short minutes. W.H. Walker aren’t reinventing the wheel here, but they are proving that they can have a hell of a good time performing their sometimes sloppy, sometimes irresistible garage rock for anybody that will listen. By Nick McGregor