Pittsburgh alt rockers Drowning Clowns show clear influence from psychedelic and hard rock greats on their debut album All That’s Covered Over.
The band’s name evokes the emotions that we all feel as we grow up and try not to lose our innocence and whimsy to job applications and faltering relationships. This same feeling is definitely communicated through the dark guitar melodies reminiscent of those of The Dismemberment Plan and OK Computer-era Radiohead.
In fact, the music is so familiar-sounding that it plays out like a checklist of alternative rock tropes. ’70s-style electric guitars squeal and groan amidst minor-key piano lines, distressed lyrics, garage rock snares, and a background of liberally applied phaser and feedback. This is a tried and true combination with a lot of potential, but the mixing on this record keeps Drowning Clowns from doing everything they can with it. A lot of the most interesting sounds in the album come from the lo-fi synthesizer blips and distortions that appear throughout. These could have improved the album if the band gave them more emphasis in the forefront as parts of create interesting sonic textures, but instead they’re buried under safer guitar parts like kitschy bric-a-brac ornamenting a plain room.
The vocals are another of the album’s downfalls. Once again, Drowning Clowns have made decisions that might have been more effective if they were flipped upside-down. The tracks on this album feature flourishes of airy female vocals and mixed-sex harmonies that fit right in with the rest of the instrumentation, but the lead singer is much less effective. His voice isn’t unpleasant per se, but the way he whines his lyrics is suited to a more stripped-down sound than that of the guitar jams on this release.
All of the above isn’t to say that this is a bad album. The rhythms are competently composed and the psychedelic effects are interestingly applied, but Drowning Clowns are going to have to expand upon these ideas if they want to avoid their nightmares of growing up into mundanity.