Kim Withers

The Loud Bangs hail themselves as the Pink Floyd of Shoegaze bands. A bold claim, to say the least, that we’ll assess in today’s review of their newest EP ‘Highway Safety Films’.

Based in LA, they’ve been dropping one Ep after the other for the entirety of 2022. But how Pink Floyd-ish are they? Or rather… how shoegaze-y are they? Shoegaze is a niche genre, sparsely populated by a few bands who solidified the genre decades ago and continue to sit atop its throne. Bands like Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine. In my point of view… The Loud Bangs aren’t exactly comparable with those names. Maybe more so a crossover between shoegaze, punk, and grunge, than pure shoegaze.

We discover this on the first track here, titled ‘Speed Enforced by Aircraft’. A slow-burning introduction that utilizes steady beats and harsh, industrial effects all over. Accompanied by clean piano chords and beautiful harmony that joins to define a clear progression. Not enough literal “shoegazing” going on, even though the effects are ample, and the song isn’t necessarily acoustic in nature. The introduction is fitting and enjoyable and sets the mood nicely.

Next in line is my personal favorite moment on the album. ‘Archie’s Enemies’ features a swaggering beat that feels like it’s about to collapse straddles alongside a dry and twangy guitar and angelic wordless vocals to a light and swift feeling chord progression that seems lofty and lost. A very dreamy soundscape defined by unique elements that I haven’t experienced before. The Shamisen-like guitar is coupled with a bass that defines an emotive chord progression near the end of the song, making for the most elevating moment on the album.

‘Cars Kill’ is a harsh piece. Based on a punk riff, I’d call it the least shoegaze-y part on the EP. Featuring almost anharmonic breakdowns where the chords seem to get entirely lost. Shoegaze starts strongly in the second half, with wailing guitars and tortured effects and an endlessly cluttered ending. ‘Oranges’, in contrast is the exact opposite. Based in its entirety on a minimalist riff that repeats with no alteration for the entire length of the song (almost), with various elements and effects that fade in and out of view. The song struggles to pick up and offer anything truly satisfying. The last portion features a very sharp vertigo-inducing filter effect that’s snazzy and smart, but not enough to make this song a coherent or particularly enjoyable one, in the scope of the whole project.

On the last spot in the surreal ‘Emergency Surgery’… a seven-minute piece of stark simplicity, beauty and clarity. Featuring an array of sweet synths that play hypnotizing notes. The song fades away entirely in the middle before returning for 3 more minutes of the same thing, but with added bass and other minimal changes. I personally think it could have been better if the first fade out finished the song. It would have been shorter and sweeter.

All in all, this album is a unique trip. Featuring timbres and fresh ideas that warp the boundaries of shoegaze, punk, and grunge in a smart and enjoyable way if you’re a fan of any of those genres. It’s very bold to compare oneself with giants such as Pink Floyd, but for the sake of this brilliant EP, I’ll let them have it.