Here’s a thrilling example of a ‘feel song,’ i.e. what happens when a band puts the sheet music away, lay off the jamming, and focus on exploring dynamics and mood atop a simple two-chord structure. It’s the means by which many a garage band seizes the mantle of “GREATEST ROCK GROUP ON EARTH” for ten minutes in an otherwise obscure existence, but newcomers Marrow use it as a foundation for the subtle flourishes they so clearly relish: some atmospheric slide guitar in the background, a delicate spiral-staircase vocal arrangement, and yes that’s more than two chords you hear upon closer listen. It’s in the listener’s perception that “The Gold Standard” is a much simpler tune than it really is that Marrow have achieved some kind of magic.
With its brooding, suspenseful tempo and haunting male-female harmonies, “The Gold Standard” recalls witchy Vancouver rockers Black Mountain to my ears. Yet the achievement here isn’t that Marrow have branched into stoner rock, so much as they’ve found a balance to their almost ridiculous instrumental and compositional abilities. The Chicago group is an offshoot of Kids These Days, a defunct ensemble that included rapper Vic Mensa and the jazz-trained Donnie Trumpet; overflowing with alt-pop melodies, sunny harmonies, rap verses and jazzy fills, KTD’s eclecticism and exuberance sounded very much like the kind of music that college kids would come up with. Vocalists Liam Kazar and Macie Stewart formed Marrow as an exclusive vehicle for their songwriting talents, and though their decade-spanning pop instincts remain intact (check out “She Chose You” and “Mother Of Maladies” in the video below), “The Gold Standard” points toward where this group’s promise can lead.
A sociology professor living in upstate New York, Leonard Nevarez is patiently waiting until his kids are old enough for a family roadtrip to Maryland Deathfest. He blogs at musicalurbanism.org and is writing a book about Martha & the Muffins and the late 70s/early 80s downtown Toronto music scene.