There’s a whiff of 60s attachment to ‘Hippies’, Harlem’s follow up to the self-released ‘Free Drugs’. Of course there’s a wink to the Modern Lovers and a nod to Pavement; there’s even a slight curtsey in the general direction of The Ramones. But the 60s influence keeps on re-emerging and embracing the listener like a sweaty hug from a long-haired, bearded youth at a Beach Boys gig: hey, it could even be from Dennis Wilson grabbing your ears and shaking a smile onto your face. Perhaps it’s the close harmonies and the surf-pop melodies of opening track ‘Someday Soon’ which evokes these images. Either way, it’s a theme that suits the band as they merrily rollock their way through 16 sub four-minute tracks of blissful garage rock.
‘Be Your Baby’ sounds like the kind of Mersey-Beat standard the north west of England would have produced had it been bathed in Californian sun. ‘I just wanna be your baby/I don’t mean maybe/ I just wanna be your baby,’ chime the band over a driving Ringo-esque beat. It is simple stuff, but effective and, more importantly, enjoyable.
Stand out tracks like ‘Gay Human Bones’ and the appropriately named ‘Crowd Pleaser’ epitomise Harlem’s ability to mix lo-fi with good-time when it comes to music. There a few bands trying to do a similar thing – like The Fresh and Onlys and Surfer Blood – but Harlem just seem be able to do it better.
The charming innocence purveyed in many of the tracks becomes more endearing with each listen. That’s probably not what most bands want to hear because it sounds like they’re being labelled ‘nice’. But don’t worry, Harlem manage to keep the ‘nice’ turned down to tolerable levels, tempering it with garage pop which, while it won’t trouble your brain too much, will induce involuntary finger-clicks, foot-taps and occasionally the odd spin and clap.