Post-grunge bands are (understandably) the recipients of so much hate that I initially hesitated to even make the comparison for fear of turning off listeners to Flower’s impressive debut record, Waste of Life. To be fair, Flower is not your monster truck loving, Affliction t-shirt wearing cousin’s post-grunge. This record is about as far removed from Seether and Staind as you can get, but at the same time it pulls from the fuzzy annals of the Pacific Northwest scene in a manner too obvious to ignore.
Frontman and songwriter Jack Fowler seems inspired by Nirvana’s influences as much as he is by their actual material. One doesn’t have to look far to see the dark conversational style of the Pixies or the outsider mentality of the Replacements on Waste of Life. But despite the obvious influences, this record is excruciatingly personal for Fowler. The corresponding bouts with repression and depression which rear their heads throughout the album were borne from Fowler’s time at a dead-end job before this record was written.
Flower channel this and other struggles with artistry and humanity into the expansive 15-track album. Despite the natural limitations of being a guitar-based trio, the band uses a plethora of musical tools as they mine from the ’60s onward to achieve a distinct, razor-sharp sound. The dark edge of the record sneaks up on the listener behind a shroud of bubblegum gang vocals and dreamy guitars as the album progresses, most notably on “Let Me Down” and “Blush.”
Fowler has always had a penchant for high fidelity production quality, a factor especially evident through his other project exwhy. The same is true on Waste of Life, and is on display via the scattering of auto-percussive sounds and intense high-end. In today’s world of lo-fi alternative rock, the production style is a welcome break, but for an album with such high levels of anxiety and angst, it nearly masks the darkness too well. It’s for this reason that the closer “Digits,” with its simple guitar and bleak vocals, becomes one of the strongest tracks on the album.
By the end of the record, the listener realizes they are part of redemptive experience, not just for Flower, but for the tenets of grunge which made it so engaging back in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The disillusionment that Green River and Soundgarden felt towards radio rock and the missteps of punk, feels just as applicable today in the world of nonsensical EDM mixes and ever-commercialized music fests. Flower may be reluctant prophets, but within the sphere of Atlanta music and rock and roll as a whole, 2016 is a year where we need to hear what they have to say.
Waste is Life is out tomorrow.
Flower will perform on Saturday, February 13 at the Masquerade. Supporting them will be Rad-isaurus Rex, King Guru, Lea Lea, Sad Fish, and Swim Lessons. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is $8.