Durham quartet Wild Wild Geese follows-up last year's four-song EP with Sorry, Earth, a fine full-length that echoes the fuzz-drenched sounds of Dinosaur Jr., the Northwestern pop amble of Built to Spill and the tuneful art punk of Agitpop. However effective, it's still just left of the bull's-eye.
There's plenty of promise in Rob Ruin and Nathan Toben's oft-tasty twin guitar roar, but they sometimes get by on texture rather than memorable melodies. Along with vocals frequently buried in the mix, that fact detracts from the album's overall allure. The last third of the nine-song album really flags, squandering energy they've built up over the balance of the album.
But this seems partially by design, as they use the last three songs to indulge their moodier psychedelic impulses. Tracks like "Say Hi to Hell" dip deep into Built to Spill territory, riding prickly undulating waves of distortion and snaking bass lines for a dreamy effect. At four and a half minutes, though, it drags; "Chainsaw," at least, employs a similar ebb and flow swoon, but it gets offstage before outstaying its welcome.
None of this detracts from the success of the first two-thirds of the album, which deliver chunky throb over songs preoccupied with psychological torment. Opener "Stuck Inside" is an ideal entrance, with subtle backing vocals amplifying an infectious hook and a cool outro. It's an earworm outshone by mid-album tracks "Art and War" and "Spreekiller." The latter is a meditation on murderous rampages whose swoon keenly clashes the subject matter's pensive melancholia. A surprisingly deft six-minute track driven by riding slashes of post-punk guitar and a thundering rhythm, "Art and War" billows outward in a colorful psychedelic break while never losing the song's momentum.
Sorry, Earth is a sharp effort that hints at greatness but lacks the focus to sustain it. Whether that's a matter of honing their varied approaches or tightening the songwriting bolts, Wild Wild Geese are close.