The five songs on Looker's new self-titled EP balance rock 'n' roll energy with mopey urbane nostalgia, oversaturated Jesus and Mary Chain guitars with singsong melodies and rich harmonies courtesy of the group's three "lookers": Boshra AlSaadi, Nicole Greco and Rachel Smith. It's the tension that emerges from their juxtaposition of churning distortion with the sedate, restrained vocals ... no howling banshees, no punky histrionics, no overdone seductiveness ... that gives Looker's songs a sense of thoughtful, imagistic directness.
"Serenade Stare," for example, captures all the sweetness of a '50s girl-group pop confection, complete with syncopated vocal harmonies, fed through a guitar crunch-fest that's part Foo Fighters, part White Light/White Heat-era Lou Reed leads.
The lovely "Ballad of the 9th Precinct" kicks off the EP with a restrained chug, reminiscent of the The Cars' "My Best Friend's Girlfriend," "Hope & Anchor" features hard-hitting drummer (and only male member) Robbie Overbey, while "Hey Kids" comes closest to NYC hipster-band stereotypes.
The EP closes with "Hollow Tooth": "Not so far from the west side highway / right where the water used to reach / we'll imagine the old shoreline / in the place between the garbage and the street." Both the surrealistic reminiscence and the pacing of the song conjure an atmosphere of hormone-addled high-school melancholy; the '90s indie-grunge sound will doubtless carry a number of listeners back to yesteryear's long walks in soggy sneakers.
Although it's wise to expect greater things from Looker in the near future (the band's been working lately with Blondie and Raveonettes producer Richard Gottehrer), this humble EP stands on its own merits. And you never know: You might be whipping this out of your CD rack in an attempt to impress a looker with an "I knew them back when" story. Something nostalgic and brutal like that.