Gospel Claws’ Debut Album is Fun and Nostalgic Without the Kitsch
“C-L-A-W-S” is the debut full-length from Arizona indie underdogs Gospel Claws. With its retro-washed songwriting, unexpectedly memorable melodies, and intimate production, this inaugural album coasts along with the nostalgic fun of a distant summer’s teenage joyride — windows down and no end in sight until the gas tank is dry.
Gospel Claws summon a unique sound combining the exuberant energy of a less-kitschy Surfer Blood with the timeless charm of The Walkmen. While modern influences like Arcade Fire are clearly relevant, their true magnetism is owed to the breezy music of days gone by, from the car-clustered jukebox culture of ‘60s Cali to the a capella work songs chanted in the laborious fields of days less free.
Though the slippery guitars and falsetto harmonies opening “Summer Nights Lakeside” might fool you into thinking your listening to Beach House, “Need For Speed” is unmistakably a page torn from The Beach Boys’ canon.
While plenty have attempted this marriage of decades-spanning influences, Gospel Claws succeed thanks to the unparalleled vocals of frontman Joel Marquard. From a slurred warble to an impassioned howl, Marquard’s soulful diligence is utterly individualistic in its unpredictably evocative intonation yet masterfully skilled timing, and is further emboldened courtesy of the vocals his equally talented band mates lend. The group’s well-suited approach to capture the album in a live setting with analog-extraordinaire producer Bob Hoag seals the deal in not only beautifully defining their sound, but capturing the intense presence and rhythmic sway their live shows are renowned for.
It’s hard to find any glaring qualities that stand out negatively against the placid undercurrent of “C-L-A-W-S”. Upon early listens, some lyrics can appear adolescent and certain rhyme schemes sound forced, but in the end — when the talons of Gospel Claws have really dug their way in — even these trivialities ultimately append themselves to the spry and credulous jubilation of the album. Truly, the biggest fault is that “C-L-A-W-S” is an October release, when it feels more at home in the carefree impulses of summer road trips and sunny days spent lounging by the lake.
With their first LP, Gospel Claws have easily fashioned one of the year’s most unforgettable albums. Though it initially may give the impression of a shallow and fleeting amusement, further visits reward the listener by revealing a deep reservoir of enduring redemption, wherein one finds a connection not only to their own childhood pleasures but the extolled imaginings of generations past. As you begin waking up heedlessly humming the catchy melodies of Gospel Claws’ beguiling tunes, you slowly realize that “C-L-A-W-S” is just one of those records that will continue to call you back for more.