A band as studious in the rock canon as Geese knows the value of a good narrative. The quintet were actual high schoolers while making their debut album, Projector, and it arrives with a virtually cinematic tagline: In a world at the mercy of TikTok teens, here comes a good old fashioned Brooklyn buzz band restoring New York post-punk to its rightful place as the only music that should matter.
That’s the hype talking, not Geese—but Projector doesn’t go out of its way to contradict it. Their very first single after signing to Partisan, hell their first single ever, is nearly seven minutes, a SparkNoting of Talking Heads’ scope of influence over the past 40 years. Ask five music nerds between the ages of 18 and 55 what it sounds like and they’ll provide a different but accurate answer. Cameron Winter’s lyrics are a portrait of the aspiring Brooklyn indie rock artist as a young man, loosely connected images of empty house parties, grubby tour vans, and the way alcohol sublimates minor romantic misunderstandings into the raw material for generational classics. Even the title itself—“Disco” somehow both vague and impossibly vast—suggests “signature song” was its starting point.
Geese also acknowledge the necessity for a proper mission statement. Despite being the unequivocal highlight of Projector, opener “Rain Dance” was wisely avoided as a lead single, assuming an audience that longs for the days of reading a 10/10 NME review weeks before they rush to Sam Goody and see what all the fuss is about. Geese sprint from the starting gun, an urgent performance that gives little indication of Projector’s largely mid-tempo pace. Dan Carey—the producer who has become a veritable Max Martin for young post-punk—provides a muscular mix that leaves enough space for ear-turning, barbershop harmonies and whirring synths. “Bring me back to life,” Winter asks somewhat sheepishly before it morphs to “Coming back to life!” a minute later. And once you’ve declared yourself the resurrection, “Low Era” submits that there’s only one thing left to do—strut.
Geese are an impressive band, full stop. But is Projector the result of prodigious talent meeting uncanny inspiration or just what happens when kids in their formative years apply their seemingly unlimited enthusiasm and attention towards a singular obsession following a well-worn path? Geese repeatedly trace over the tessellated guitar harmonies and cut-time rhythms of Women while disposing of the meat locker ambience that amplified the severity of their lyricism. They can slice and dice like the Rapture, but their interest in proper dance music only goes so far as naming one of their songs “Disco.” In Projector’s most promising and only original moments, Geese make a tentative embrace of a reverberant grandeur that puts them more in line with U2—probably the least cool band they’ve been compared to in their short career, but still the most popular band that ever legitimately could call themselves post-punk. Geese know all the right moves, but what really moves them?
As “Low Era” indicates both literally and figuratively, Geese have yet to find their voice. Winter jives in a half-falsetto (“Some are born with the psychic inflection,” big if true!) before settling on his dominant mode, an affected yawp broad enough to evoke Julian Casablancas, James Murphy, and maybe those times when Will Toledo does his caricature of the two. What Winter hasn’t done yet is develop a distinct narrative personality that can make his blasé delivery feel earned, rather than a conscientious stylistic tic. Projector is rife with clever phrases that infect Geese’s teenaged fixation on minute social interactions with the similarly teenaged tendency towards obtuse metaphors to distract from what they really mean. Even granting Winter authorial license, his ambitious, occasionally resonant, and often belabored lines about NYC ennui and what it all means scan like the thoughts of people whose worldview was largely shaped by listening to Is This It.
Maybe they’re not Greta Van Fleet with a dog-eared copy of Meet Me in the Bathroom, but if Geese were in the middle of a four-band bill at the Mercury Lounge in 2002, would we remember them now? Would they still be considered legit post-punk prodigies if they were 20 and from Brookline, Massachusetts instead? Would Geese be better served if they were deemed 2021’s answer to the Stills rather than the Strokes? Maybe, but none of these hypotheticals are true. Nearly every one of their reference points may have once been intended as subversion, incubated in New York’s grimiest clubs, but for as long as Geese have been a band, Talking Heads are a classic rock institution, the Strokes can headline festivals in off-cycles and win Grammys for recapturing even a hint of their former glory, and CBGB is a restaurant at the Newark Airport. Projector is best appreciated not as the work of post-punk’s resurrectors but its cocky, charismatic trust fund kids: unconcerned with the legitimacy of their inheritance and confident that there’s no way they can fail.
Buy: Rough Trade
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