Couple things you need to know about popular Eugene indie rock band Ferns. First off, it’s just “Ferns,” not “The Ferns.” Next, if you haven’t seen Ferns for a while — and if that’s the case, why not? — they’ve expanded their taut power-trio sound to a four-piece, adding Ryan Cchini (Psyrup) on keyboards and fourth beard.
Last, the group has (finally) released a full-length. It’s called Tranquilizer, and Eugene Weekly got an advance listening copy. Here’s a track-by-track breakdown of what we heard.
Track one on the album kicks off with perfectly seared yet tender and juicy power chords from Ferns guitarist and vocalist Jake Pavlak (Yeltsin, Buckhorn). Good news if you’re a fan of the band’s power-pop tendencies.
Look out! This song comes in hot, showcasing Pavlak’s singular melodic sensibility as well as his knack for riding a riff. While the band’s rhythm section — Dave Snider (Testface) and Jivan Valpey (Yeltsin, Pass Out Kings) — hammer on, Pavlak’s guitar and Cchini’s ELO keyboard work intertwine in the mellow middle bit. Terrific!
Bringing things down a touch, “Magnetic 87” has Ferns in a somber mood, building to an intricate, jazzy guitar solo, proving Pavlak really is a world-class guitarist, the outro bearing more than a passing resemblance to Meat is Murder-era Smiths.
The down-tempo mid-section of the album continues with the shimmering and gauzy “Ghost Variations.” Pavlak’s reverb-drenched singing voice as well as the fine masonry of the layered guitar work renders something that’s a little like sadsack Built to Spill.
Blues for Gloria Jean
Hooray! The power chords are back on this up-tempo live favorite, which finds the band moving together as a cohesive unit toward one of the album’s catchiest guitar hooks and choruses, Pavlak singing “take me everywhere you go” over a wash of gentle guitar distortion.
The Hendrix-y central riff and spaceship keyboard work on this tune are Tranquilizer at its most psychedelic, Pavlak pulling off a looped-backward electric guitar solo that would not seem out of place on Revolver. Far out, man.
This six-minute instrumental track kicks off with miscellaneous ambient guitar noises and cymbal splashes, building a post-rock sound bed. Just as you’re lulled to sleep, a white-hot guitar riff slashes the silence for a moment of pure stoner rock. The spacey mid-sections prove Pavlak’s unique chord voicing is just as interesting as his guitar riffs.
We Have Been Released
Another favorite from Ferns’ live show, the mellow, mid-tempo tune has a snaky groove and one of the most rockin’ guitar solos on the whole album.
This song runs on pure power-pop sugar, a chugging backbeat balanced on an acrobatic guitar lick. The mid-song break, propelled along by Valpey and Snider’s light feel for time keeping, leads up to heavenly guitar work that’s both baroque pop and as muscular as any heavy metal.
Probably the most punk tune on the whole album, this song recalls Pixies and maybe even a little early Weezer. With elements of noisy pop and some nice vocal harmonies in the catchy chorus, this song ends just as quickly as it begins.
Ferns celebrate the release of Tranquilizer with Portland’s And And And and Lucas Gunn 9:30 pm Friday, May 17, at Sam Bond’s; $6, 21-plus.