Anyone lucky enough to stumble onto Poisonous Times, the new album from Olympia, Washington, trio The Old Haunts, may wonder how a band so expertly propulsive has stayed under the indie radar for seven years.
Here’s a possible answer: Although this is The Old Haunts’ third album, it’s their first with former Bikini Kill drummer Tobi Vail. More than most bands, the Haunts get by on sheer sonic texture and rhythmic drive, and Vail’s straight-outta-the-garage timekeeping not only gives this band an essential spring to its step, she also proves that not all surf beats are created equally.
Part of the freshness of The Old Haunts’ sound comes from the dearth of the standard strum-and-thrash guitar attack. Guitarist-singer Craig Extine favors chiming guitar figures that come directly from Television, via the Byrds. His marble-mouthed yelp (a cross between an agitated Tom Verlaine and a down-on-his-luck Tom Petty) is only intermittently tuneful and would probably make any lyric transcribers pull out their hair, but its urgency works to counterbalance the prettiness of his playing.
Aside from the brooding acoustic numbers, “Hung Up on the Down Side” and “In Revolt,” few individual songs leap out of the mix, but that’s only because most of these tracks are so gloriously rocking.
— Gilbert Garcia