New Zealand quartet, Landlords, formed in 2017 out of the ashes of various metal and hardcore bands in their native Hamilton and bonded over a shared love of shoegaze and noise-rock. True to the introspective nature of their music, each member prefers to be anonymous so as not to distract from the emotional resonance of the music. The names are out there to match their faces, but Landlords are more interested in creating guitar melodies that crash like a spume of water against the rocks of the shoreline. In other words, a post-punk interpretation of My Bloody Valentine. Or is it the other around?
Immersion is the key to the band’s sophomore EP. It’s an immersion in ethereal guitar chords and sorrowful melodies wrapped in loud guitar distortion. Think of the moment in your life at a family funeral where they lower the body into the grave after the vicar’s eulogy. You know that the time to move on is near, but it leaves you with clenched jaw and squeezed fingers as you hold back the tears and try to find relief in the symbolic moment. This is the sound Landlords create on each of their five songs here. Opener, ‘Perfect Life’, has that iconic dreamy texture of the late 80s shoegaze bands that inhabited the darker end of the spectrum. You can hear the pensive introspection of The Cure’s Disintegration, but you can also hear the ambient noise of My Bloody Valentine. The melodies are subtle, the catchy elements latent in the way the composition unfolds. That classic melancholy tenor voice and sombre guitar fretting of Dinosaur’s Jnr’s J. Mascis rears its head in the middle eight as if it’s 1991’s Green Mind all over again. Something about this music makes you want to pick up a paint brush and a canvass to see what comes out of your mind.
The term ‘slow rock’ feels like a silly name to describe the art of Landlords, but it seems to be synonymous with the band. ‘Haunt’ is like Cocteau Twins with the loud dynamics of Hum. The melodic ring of the guitars ache with a brave face smile. Landlords are a rock band at heart with a strong noise-rock angle to their emotions. The loud bass musings and effulgent guitars of ‘Clover’ work well with a dual harmony vocal approach. Listen how the quartet make effective use of two guitars, with one playing the colourful delay shapes and the other exploring more intricate chord progressions. This is the type of music NME used to lionise in 1991, but don’t let that put you off. Stream Codeine on your headphones the next time you have an urge to undertake a countryside walk in the drizzle of autumn.
It’s true that Landlords execute their music in a slow-motion contemplation that’s difficult to create, but they master its nuances here. ‘Dwell’ creates shadows independent of their objects. Closing track, ‘Violence’, is anything but violent despite its loud climax of amp overdrive. You can hear yourself think when you listen to this song. Self-reflection is the dominant mood, and it’s one you know is unavoidable at key moments in your life.
Few bands merge shoegaze and the alternative rock of the grunge era with success, but Landlords are an exception. Codeine is a meditative experience that demands a quiet room and a break from social media to rediscover the beauty of solitude.
Release Date: 26/08/2022
Record Label: Church Road Records
Standout tracks: Perfect Life, Violence
Suggested Further Listening: Dinosaur Jnr – Green Mind (1991), Astronoid – Radiant Bloom (2022), The Cure – Bloodflowers (2000)