Album Review: TIRES, LP1

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TIRES will always have a special place in Ames’ heart because the band started here at the tail-end of the legendary Liberty House era that spent a few years anchoring the local pop and punk scene. Now, having spent the past few years based in Des Moines and being fleshed out from a two-piece to a powerhouse quartet, TIRES – Phil Young, Jordan Mayland, Chris Marshall and Cory Wendel – reigns as one of central Iowa’s best and most popular acts. The band’s reputation will be cemented by its outstanding new record, LP1, which will be released tonight at Vaudeville Mews.

Descriptors like “noise” or “experimental” don’t seem to quite capture the tones TIRES makes because, even when harsh, surprising or hard-to-place, the sounds are always blended into a remarkably pleasing whole that speaks native pop. The band’s cunning blend of dense textures ultimately serves an essential tunefulness that turns sonic onslaught into damn-near sing-alongs. On “2” for instance, darkly distorted tones surge in rhythmic waves while, in seeming contrast, a pop melody floats easily atop the varied noises roiling below.

As guitars and synthesizers are expertly blended into a whole throughout LP1, so too with the rhythmic layers that combine between Mayland’s excellent, precise rock drumming and the many webs of generated textures that appear from all angles.

On “4” wailing synths vamp above gnarly metal-inflected guitar and bass work that recalls Marshall’s and Wendel‘s work with Cullen’s Mudmen. The metal chops reappear on “7” in the form of a climactic harmonized guitar lead. Those end up being two of the most sterling tracks on the record.

Yet, though often heavy, TIRES has a real sweet spot for locking into a groove too, as on the head-swimming take “6” and the hypnotic opening and closing segments of “10.” TIRES is an instrumental band but their melodies are very lyrical and centered on carefully-composed song structures, giving each track the well-rounded feel of a single. And while TIRES has a whole lot going on in terms of production, concept and performance, the album is not cerebral; it is emotive, physical and rocking.

My personal favorite melody on a record overflowing with them is the opening synth hook on “8,” a powerful track that also has one of the album’s widest dynamic ranges. Extreme dynamism is a key feature of TIRES live shows and LP1, recorded at Flat Black Studios and at mastermind Young’s own studio – where it was also mastered – captures the band’s dramatic, explosive presence.

The album closes with “11,” a sweeping composition that leaves us – after so many moods and noises and tempos – with a statement of TIRES’ fundamental beauty. The track’s expressive melody is enough to put a lump in your throat.

The band compounds the aesthetic pleasure of this music with absolutely gorgeous packaging screen-printed by hand at Starman Press (a long-time collaborator with Iowa rock and pop bands) as well as translucent colored vinyl. This is a true collector’s item for Iowa music fans both as a must-have physical document and as a celebration of a great band’s full flowering, a major pay day for years of worthy fandom.

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Nate Logsdon is a writer, musician, and entrepreneur from Ames. His music and local culture articles have appeared in the Ames Tribune and Ames Progressive and on numerous websites and blogs. Logsdon is a founder of the Maximum Ames music company and the Iowa Music Store. He is also the owner of Cycles Recycling and the former bar manager of the rock club DG's Tap House. Logsdon writes and plays music with local band Mumford's and many other ensembles. He releases albums under his own name and others.