Grocer mixes melody and ferocity on the explosive 'Bless Me' - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

“Noise rock” is a frustrating genre label, mostly for its broadness. What qualifies as noise rock? If the only qualification is noisiness, then you can squeeze everyone from Sonic Youth to Pavement to Drive Like Jehu under the same label. “Noise rock” is, however, the perfect term to describe Philadelphia band Grocer’s newest album, Bless Me, released through Philly experimental label Grind Select records last Friday; in fact, it might be the only term to describe as diverse and exciting a record as this one, an album that wraps up influences from all the aforementioned bands and then some.

Bless Me feels less like an album and more like two or three mini-albums wrapped up into a tight thirty-minute package – what else can you expect from a trio in which every member is the lead vocalist? “Arts & Lit” kicks the record off with a grooving bassline and clever lyrics. “Cue in the shy librarian who’s counting out by names / Do we decimate the system that was written on the page?” snarls drummer Cody Nelson. The second track, the album’s title track, starts out as a barely-tonal freakout over janky rhythms, eventually breaking into a post-hardcore chorus that has no business sounding as blissful as it does, especially not right after bassist Danielle Lovier’s shrieked verses.

Grocer - Caterpillar Pilled (Official Video)

“Golden Sedan,” the album’s third track, is a highlight early in the tracklist, a bass-driven ballad led by guitarist Nicolas Rahn that slowly expands to include swirling synthesizers and a fantastic cello performance. By this point, it becomes apparent that there’s no way to predict where Grocer will go next; “Caterpillar Pilled” feels like a looser version of Model/Actriz’s 2023 record Dogsbody, and “Blue Grocer” breaks into a bonafide metalcore riff halfway into its runtime for all of thirty seconds. Then, suddenly, Bless Me isn’t a noise rock album at all; “Mating Call” and “Packrat” are genuine power-pop tracks, Lovier’s suddenly-sweetly-sung vocals harkening back to the 90s heyday of female-fronted alt-rock; it’s hard to believe you’re listening to the same vocalist who was screaming about squatting on her neighbor’s property five tracks ago.

The closing track, “Subtext,” is Grocer at their best, switching between different keys and time signatures with reckless abandon, and finishing with the most memorable moment on the album, in which the entire track starts half-rhythmically clipping, erupting in a mess of digital distortion and finishing with a bizarre mallet loop. If each vocalist has gotten their moment to show off so far on Bless Me, this is the moment in which producer Nate Amos (of Water From Your Eyes and This Is Lorelei) takes center stage. The first time I heard Bless Me’s chaotic closer, I thought for a second that my headphones were breaking, and at the end of the day, that’s all you can ask for from a good noise rock record.

Bless Me is all over the place. It comes off as a sampler of potential next-directions for the band; there’s a lot of very different ideas here that don’t quite cohere, but nothing is executed poorly. “Noise rock” is a fitting label in that Bless Me is as unpredictable as actual digital noise generation, and pure noise has never sounded so sweet.

Grocer headlines Johnny Brenda’s on Thursday, April 25th with Kal Marks and Her New Knife, tickets and more information on the 21+ show can be found at the WXPN Concert Calendar.

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