Being derivative isn’t an immediate indication of failure, nor is it always advantageous to forge new waters. Sometimes, when discovering a new band, it helps when what you’re hearing is distinctly familiar. Something might remind you of other bands you’ve listened to and memories involving those bands—sounds trigger responses in the brain and the senses become flooded with fragments of past experiences.
Joy Zipper sounds a lot like a lot of bands—their spacey pop atmospherics recall the typical checklist of Wilson-ian influences. American Whip remains interesting throughout, however, because Joy Zipper doesn’t settle for falling into comfortable grooves—chirpy instrumentation, ooo’s and aaah’s—instead they melt their pop sensibilities with the same wall-of-sound production and loving drool of My Bloody Valentine and Air.
American Whip unfurls, revealing vines of interweaving beauty and cutesy-wutesy sentiments (“I love you more than a thousand Christmases”) like the Canadian group Stars on Nyquil PM. It’s an impressive albeit inconsistent album that suffers from its timing—in the so-called renaissance of classic pop music, Joy Zipper just doesn’t do enough to separate American Whip from the crowd.
In 2004, lots of bands did pop well—but in a year that saw the master of the genre, Brian Wilson, return to show us how it’s done, it’s just too hard to take anything else seriously. Teenage symphony to God, this ain’t.