Familiarity breeds warmth, part the second

Man, this is what Interpol should have sounded like.

Yeah, it’s so tired namedropping Joy Division all the freekin’ time, but in the case of Longwave, the influence is less pronounced.

Or to put it more directly, Longwave don’t sound like a sonic photocopy.

“Wake Me When It’s Over” starts off Longwave’s debut album, The Strangest Things, with the reverb-drenched, haunting guitar work of — say it with me now — Joy Division (or perhaps early New Order?). But when singer Steve Shiltz chimes in, the ghost of Ian Curtis rests soundly in peace.

Shiltz’s voice is actually refreshing. He can actually hold his notes, and his alt-rock timbre is tempered by a subtle crooner feel. This guy could probably sing some mean karaoke.

After that initial tip of the hat, the rest of the album comes across as early-80s underground rock album recorded on post-90s digital equipment. That is, it’s as comfortable as your Smiths’ vinyl collection without all that dated 80s analog stuff.

On “Pool Song”, Dave Marchese’s bass line does more to complement Shiltz than guitarist Shannon Ferguson’s rhythmic strumming. “I Know It’s Coming Someday” ought to remind U2 what it used to be.

“The Ghosts Around You”, on the other hand, might have even worked as a Smashing Pumpkins outtake.

As an album, The Strangest Things possesses a surprising strong clarity. The songs may not hide their 80s college rock influences, but neither are they filler.

Of course, that means its tough picking out particularly singular tracks on the album. “Tidal Wave”, “All Sewn Up” and the title track come pretty close.

Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann gives Longwave a strong, clear sound. The drums are never muddied, and even when the guitar work gets fuzzy — as it does on “Exit” and “Meet Me at the Bottom” — they never bleed into the background.

Thing is, such a strong 80s influence calls into question the root of the band’s appeal — is it nostalgia or originality? The answer is a bit of both.

There’s no denying Longwave’s appeal to a thirtysomething audience, but the band’s songs stand on their own in spite of any pop culture resurgence.