By Dan Verner – Contributor
I’m a big fan of 80’s new wave. Personally it’s my favorite era of music, and while that era of music has passed, hearing a band release what amounts to homage to genre tropes could potentially be underwhelming. That being said, New Haven new wave revivalists If Jesus Had Machine Guns understand the proper interplay that needs to occur in this style on their debut album Peasants.
At it’s best, the performance is strong and the production is well done. Songs like “Tonight” and “Have You Ever” feature driving percussion, delightfully melodic basslines weaving between layers of atmospheric guitars and synth and a singer that could sit in for Robert Smith or Ian Curtis with no problem whatsoever. This faithfulness to the trademarks of the genre help carry the record from front to back.
At times, some songs give the impression that they were written solo and delivered as-is, rather than developed and edited organically with a band to deliver maximum effect. It can lack a sense of urgency alongside the emotional despair. Some songs just peter out without a constructed ending. It’s a shame given the beautiful instrumental sections throughout the entire album.
As a debut, it’s a promising effort overall. There are glimmers of brilliance like the chorus to “She Didn’t Mean To”… But if IJHMG hopes to properly revivify the new wave movement, it’s going to take more than getting a certain sound down. The familiarity is there, but much like any good revival, it could use more vigorous energy that’s more than evident at their live shows. I have a feeling If Jesus Had Machine Guns will be able to take the sounds reminiscent of the apex of 80’s new wave to exciting new places in the future.