If you’re looking for rock as a hug, you can’t do better than Ovlov.
How can a band this adorable be so massive? Cuteness is supposed to come in little boxes, with bowties and confetti, not with a wash of whirling noise that wonderfully destroys the eardrums. Yet that’s been Ovlov’s mission statement from day one: Make music that will decimate an arena while the crowd goes “aww.”
The Connecticut outfit released 2013’s fuzziest little rocker with am and after a hiatus/breakup and a “Greatest Hits” album, Ovlov have returned. Tru is everything you could want in a sequel, a refinement of previously held ideals with exploration sprinkled in between. It helps that the guitar tone is cozy enough to repurpose as a two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath and garden-filled suburban home. This is some extremely Dino Jr shit, but with less snark and more meekness. Steve Hartlett’s shy coo is one of the album’s best traits, either matching timid riffs or juxtaposing the gargantuan squalls. And when it goes big, it goes huge. These are some Japandroids-style and sized anthems, with more restraint, but just as much punch.
Tru works with slightly sludgier tempos than am, but it adds to the grandeur. There’s no world eater like “Really Bees,” (though “Fast G” comes close) but Ovlov are now much more investigative. The range within all that crusty delight impresses. The Hartlett bros put a heaping helping of emotion in each song, allowing them to dart from Duster-style melancholy, Guided By Voices mini-rippers and My Bloody Valentine waves of riffs. Yes, that’s all solidly in noise-pop, but Ovlov might be the best introduction to the genre, laying out perfect versions of every nook and cranny in the cacophony. They also pull it off through sheer earnestness. This is the sort of lo-fi that gets away with “Morgan and Theo recorded vocals for 1, 2, 4 and 5 in Mr. & Mrs. Hartlett’s bedroom” being posted on the Bandcamp page. There are singular moments where the amps seem to be wheezing under the pressure. The closing of “Half Way Fine” would make The Joy Formidable blush, and “Tru Punk” absolutely has those pedal boards crying. It’s a nice, rickety touch.
Perhaps the most surprising thing is just how dang pretty it all turns out. Fellow scuzzers Yuck proved handily that 2010s guitar skronk could be ravishing, but few amp obliterating albums come even close to the poetry of Tru. The slow-mo, near oceanic movement of “Spright” is all encompassing, the sort of utterly mammoth sound that captures the ears in equally brutal and comfy amounts. They pull of the neat trick of sounding like total slackers while playing some of the tightest rhythm and guitar interplay of 2018. Check out the drum bounce on “Half Way Fine,” which bounds forward like Flubber even as the siren guitar wails take center stage on the first few listens.
There’s also the deliciously crunchy “Fast G,” whose guitar riff is the aural equivalent of perfectly crispy chicken wings. “Tru Punk,” despite the title, is the twinkliest, mathiest pick of the litter, a wonderful mid-west emo nugget that proves Ovlov could go full American Football if they wanted to. That’s backed up nicely by the understated production. Despite the earlier addendum that much of Tru was recorded in bedrooms, the audio channels ping-pong delightfully, giving more texture to the already quite tactile guitar.
If you want your rock to be as debaucherous as Nero, go for Iceage. Or if sheer evil is on the menu, Tropical Fuck Storm has you covered. But these cuties have created the friendliest “bummer dude” in the world, and if you’re looking for rock as a hug, you can’t do better than Ovlov. Simply put, there won’t be a more welcoming rock album this year, and maybe not a better one period.