File Under: Throwing Muses, Lush, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sundays, The Flaming Lips.
Portland’s altered-pop duo, The Repitaliens, (Bambi Browning, Cole), delivers their third, self-produced LP, “Multiverse,” on Captured Tracks.
“Multiverse” is the soundtrack to a psychedelic summer, yet, it was released this frigid winter month of January 2022. Playful, warped, lysergic, off-kilter, spacey, and super contagious, listening to “Multiverse” is like being locked inside The Manson Family compound, but instead of being located in the desolate desert of Spahn Ranch, it was recorded at the Browning’s and Cole’s compound and home in the rainy woods outside of Portland, Oregon. The Manson Family had dirt weed, brown acid, and dune buggies. The Reptaliens have better recording gear, green trees, sunnier vibes, and cleaner Orange Sunshine.
Where synthesizers and keyboards were the primary drivers and sonic Crayons ™ for the previous two albums, guitars, bass, and simple, in the pocket drumming, propel these danceable, groovy, and eighties-flavored day glow riffs define the “new” Repitalien sound. Driven by jangly guitars, pulsing bass lines, and sing-song, sunny lyrics, but always with a slightly sinister undercurrent just below the ice. It’s lo-fi but perfectly produced, recorded, and mixed. The mood sits somewhere between rainy, dour, Brit shoegazing pop of the 1980s and early 1990s, and the guitars have that Smiths-era, Cure vibe.
The 10-song gem of an album kicks off with “I Feel Fine,” a bubbly, sunny little number featuring chiming guitars and sassy vocals. On the surface, all seems euphoric and joyous, but just below, is a dark undercurrent. Bambi Browning seems to be describing the isolation of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns of 2020. Browning sings, “We ran out of drugs to do, so we started sniffing glue. And my mind has gone to shit, but I’m in love with you.”
The second track and first single/video, “Like A Dog,” seems to be an ode to Timothy Leary and the shared joys of a communal trip. Browning sings over a jangly guitar riff and bouncy, gurgling bassline, “I am fine. The time is right. My surfaces are clear. LSD comes to me. My objects disappear.”
“In Your Backyard” continues in a vibe reminiscent of the UK’s top 90’s exports, The Sunday’s or Lush. Cole plays a fuzzy, short, atonal, explosive Enoish solo towards the end of the cut. Lyrically speaking, themes of isolation and loneliness permeate the track and are evident in the lyrics: “Can you help me? Cause I can’t help finding myself screaming on your lawn in your backyard,” Browning sings.
The fourth track, “Take It,” sounds like a possible secret track left off of the Throwing Muses’ 1995 groundbreaking release, “University.” As with the Muses’ Kirsten Hersh, Bambi seems to be documenting a bout of melancholia or crippling depression. Despite the bleak lyrics: “And I feel it in my body and my mind. When the heartache holds its crippled hand in mine,” Browning sounds almost gleeful about the psychic pain and the purge.
The fifth track, “Don’t Wait On Me,” continues the dark lyrical themes, but the music and vocal delivery are as bright as the sun breaking through a prolonged Rainer rain. This track features a very Pixiesque bassline and catchy chorus reminiscent of another group of Portlanders, The Dandy Warhols. Again, Brown returns to themes of alienation, isolation, depression, broken relationships. She sings, “When there was no promise other than the kind that comforts me. When death was a close companion.” Cole’s jangly, minimalist guitar solo is brief, memorable, and tasteful.
The sixth track, “Do You Know You Are Sleeping,” encapsulates another day of isolation and dreams of escaping a boring, predictable reality. It continues both the lyrical and musical themes of this stellar album. “Hello, hello. Do you know you are sleeping? Don’t let go. Can we escape this painting?” Browning softly sings.
“Go Away,” the seventh track, seems to be describing the longing for an absent lover and the lingering pain of desires unfulfilled. “He’s taking me to bed, and then he’s leaving home. But what’s another lover when you spend your days alone.” Browning captures the female point of view and experience in a way that is visceral, relatable, and real.
The eighth track, “Someone I Know,” is another mesmerizing, tranquilizing cut featuring almost dreamy, sultry Brazilian pop vocals and out-of-focus whispering vocals. The vibe is sunny, but with storms approaching and earthquakes underfoot.
The ninth track, “I Can’t Hide,” begins with an understated, slinky, shimmering vibe and then explodes into a fuzzed-out, exploding chorus. “And I know there’s something wrong. And it’s been there for so long. So now I’m peeling off my skin. And I’m saving it for him,” Browning sings in a sexy, cooing, dour mode. Her voice is central to all these songs and the music always complements and enhances her delivery.
The final track, “Jump,” concludes the album and goes out on a sing-along chorus, a “Dear Prudence” pulsing bassline, fuzztone guitar vamp, and a burrowing, memorable vocal refrain. Even with the variance and uniqueness of each cut, the overall vibe is stoned immaculate and warm glow aftermath.
In a world of dolbyized, sterilized, uninspired, and disposable music, The Repitaliens create timeless, enthralling, and magical music from the heart and soul. If there were any justice in this world, The Repitaliens would rule the charts, the airwaves, and the galaxy.