As Arbor Labor Union returns home to their Georgian roots, and home to Arrowhawk, the label where they began, they find another type of roots suit them as well. The band’s brief sojourn with Sub Pop might have escaped your grasp, if you weren’t paying attention over the last couple of years, but I’m sure it had an impact on them. The band scrubbed themselves clean and cut back their hairiness for I Hear You, but as accomplished as it was, it also lost a bit of the fun that imbued the band with their sense of joy. That fun and froth returns to New Petal Instants and the band wind up with, by all accounts, their best yet. Dipping into their instincts to jam a track into the choogle-slicked waters of the current indie-psych pocket of rock that includes Garcia Peoples, One Eleven Heavy, and Howlin’ Rain, the band finds a home in ramble n’ rollick that can’t sit still.
ALU always knew hot to land a riff, but here they don’t stick it with the precision of a champion athlete, but rather let it slide like a kid pushing the boundaries on a backyard ramp. They “pick a boogie” and let it loop, sliding and skidding on the way down to the ground with a bit of reckless flair. That sense of not playing it safe makes the album feel like its bigger than the Cosmic Americana crush its attempting to squeeze. It’s a band recapturing their spirit and coming off better for it. The group synthesizes the spirit of Southern Rock and adds to it the complexities and discipline of post-punk. While the two don’t seem to find the mesh in the marketplace, there’s every indication that ALU could crush a cover of The Soft Boys’ “Wey Way Hep Uh Hole” and make it seem like it swung with a smoked-tanned soul all along. Take away the sneer but keep the self-effacing swagger in place and that’s where New Petal Instants lands.
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