I'm not entirely sure Chapel Hill's Huguenots know it's 2011. The bulk of the '60s-focused foursome graduated from UNC last year, so it's fair to assume they're acquainted with the date. But the sound on their new self-titled—and admittedly pretty enjoyable—debut LP leaves some doubt as to their understanding of how their music fits in with the times.
These songs are, without exception, brisk, competent party jams, filled with vague come-ons and kiss-offs that are just engaging enough for their hooks to stick like Elmer's. Their harmonies are pure, clean and unmistakably Beatles-y. Their bass lines sway and saunter with a suave confidence undoubtedly indebted to The Strokes. Their riffs dabble in garage distortion but in a way that's incredibly uptight. The levels are viciously controlled within the album's spotless production, resulting in playful lines with a punch that's patently predictable.
The results are fun enough. "I Would Say" waltzes confidently through its verses and tears through its choruses with wall-of-sound harmonies and serpentine riffs. It's hitched to a clever "please-don't-go" narrative—"The songs that you're singing will soon be sounding sorry," is a particularly great bit of wordplay. "Julia" jangles with well-trod but nevertheless effervescent pop joy, offerring a tangle of call-and-response clamor and catchy melody that resounds with enough sexually charged confusion to give a cry like "Oh Julia!" a surprising amount of power.
But the majority of The Huguenots is too underwhelming to follow for very long. These aren't just popular trails; they're 16-lane freeways that have been jammed with traffic since 1964. The Huguenots' talent is clear, but if they ever want to set themselves apart, they'll need to take the nearest exit and start carving a path of their own.