Lars Finberg, former drummer of the A Frames, knows exactly what he’s doing combining a band called The Intelligence with a track called “Turned To Puke”. He’s one of those devilish grin guys, someone who finds joy in subversion, of being so smart that it’s dumb. Take that formula, and add it to the empty canvas that is garage rock and you’ve got The Intelligence. Now seven albums in, Finberg’s turn at the forefront errs more on the noisy, post-punk side of the garage than the neat, orderly side where your dad has all of his tools in their proper places.
The Intelligence seems to release on a schedule. This is the seventh album in seven years. When a band puts out material that prodigiously, you start to wonder if it’s got much thought in it. As the solid, positive movement from last year’s great “Fake Surfers” shows, Finberg’s bright enough not to toss out whatever he happens to have come up with this year. At least not without first making sure it was pretty good. “Bong Life” opens the disc to prove it, the neanderthal punk guitar chords and drum beat, lines like “Nobody in the universe has any decent grass” belted out smirkingly. The track lists at one minute and 18 seconds, but that includes 20 seconds of silence and another ten of chaotic noise (partly responsible from Karate Party/FM Knives guitarist Chris Woodhouse) at the end, so they really put together that gem in maybe 50 seconds.
Throughout, Woodhouse, drummer Beren Ekine-Huett (ex-Eat Skull) and keyboardist Susanna Wellbourne all trounce out solid, if slightly unremarkable music. Which is sort of the point. This is fun, brainless yet brainy rock. Plus, Finberg used to play everything himself, so that must be nice. Instead, he can write out lyrics to “Turned to Puke” about how things would be better if it was his birthday. Later, songs like “Sailor Itch” take a fantastic tack at combining Gang of Four punk with snarky surf. There’s a bit of Scratch Acid in there, for good measure, but nothing too tough.
The amazingly and tellingly titled “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like” opens with guitar hooks and pops together with machine gun repetitions of that annoyingly pervasive word. The burbling synths of “Estate Sales” are kind of too silly, but the song’s surfy, rollicking guitar and tossed off vocals are certainly worth a listen. The closing title track may be the most perplexing of the bunch. The song proper clocks in at about two minutes, with is nothing unusual, but Wellbourne’s backing vocals are empty, low-slung, intriguing. Finberg then, at the drop of a hat, murmurs “That’s it…”, leaving the rest of the band to repeat the progression for a couple of minutes, eventually fading out into a fading nothingness.
There are a couple of tracks that are just a little too mindless, but when everything comes together, this is a band worth keeping an eye on. It’s worth noting that “Like Like Like Like Like Like Like” is one of those stuck-in-your-head-for-days songs. That song alone would garner a few stars, but this record outshines the standout track. Skip the stinkers and have fun.