February 1, 2023
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Life & Culture

Review: Indie duo ‘Wampire’ survives transition to full band



Going from a two-piece act to a full band can be an awkward or convoluted process. But with indie-rock band Wampire’s new album, “Bazaar,” songwriters Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps make the transition more smoothly, welcoming three new members to the fold. Still, there are many times throughout the album when Wampire’s style clashes too much with its musical commotion, burying the vocals and making the mix sound claustrophobic. Yet other times the five-piece band manages to get it right, and achieves the essential balance between simplicity and experimentation.

The album opens up with “The Amazing Heart Attack,” already giving the listener a sense of the energetic but macabre atmosphere the band is trying to put forth. With a busy and driving bass and thick-layered guitars and synths, the up-tempo track comes in strong. The album’s dizzying grooviness doesn’t begin to settle in, though, until the next track, “Bad Attitude,” an equally fast and brazen guitar-synth rocker. These two tracks back to back may prove to be too overwhelming and repetitive for an album’s opening, as if Tinder and Phipps were too excited to capture their full band sound and got a little carried away.

At certain points in “Bazaar,” the band tries to display its more psychedelic aesthetic but falls short of the desired effect. “Too Stoned,” for instance, starts with a slow buildup of drum and bass groove with synth overtones, not opening up into anything remotely musical until halfway through the track. Once the song picks up, it relies heavily on an uninteresting melody and lyrics, lacking any real musical substance.

The finer moments of the album occur in the slower, less instrumentally crowded tracks, where the band has more breathing room to welcome the dual vocals of Tinder and Phipps. In “Millennials,” the vocals are more melodic than the other tracks prior, suiting the reverby harmonies far better than the high-pitched staccato delivery of “Bad Attitude.” It’s subtleties like these that only stand out at the slow- or mid-tempo tunes.

Within just a few years, Wampire transformed from a two-piece synth band that played parties in Portland, Oregon, to a five-piece rock band. Naturally, the new lineup for Wampire results in changes to the musical palette and awkward instrumental issues to be worked out before its next release. However, Tinder and Phipps keep their grip, maintaining a minimal enough sound throughout “Bazaar” to let their strengths come to the forefront. Some listeners may feel some degree of nostalgia for the group’s humble beginnings, while others may instead embrace the new, fuller sound with less skepticism. Wampire seems to have taken the latter choice and is all the better for it.