Holy Lands recorded Paint Traders Union last summer and put it up on Bandcamp, but they are just now getting around to officially releasing it on CD with an album party this week. I already said how much I enjoyed the effort in the Indy's end-of-year wrap-up, but here's my chance to tell you why. Perhaps the Missoula band just kind of pushes all the right buttons for someone like me who loves the Pixies and Tom Waits and Fugazi and David Bowie. They also put on a spectacle at their shows with animal masks, banter and glam antics. I don't want to keep referring to these other artists to explain Holy Lands' appeal, though. The band is naturally talented, less derivative, and their songs seem to come from a place of creative experimentation and fun rather than trying hard to impress anyone.
The album begins with "Sleep Study," which serves up punkish defiance with the shimmery guitar melodies you might hear from a Nathan Larson soundtrack. It's an imperfect song—distracting in how ramshackle and molasses-slow parts of it feel—but still charming. "False Plaster Walls" has the weirdo energy of a Frank Black tune, but incorporates a warped-record element that makes it feel slightly carnivalesque. "California Maki Suicide" seems like an other-universe companion to Bowie's "Rock and Roll Suicide." The lyrics on these songs are straightforward but evoke complicated feelings, and all the gang vocal a cappella breakdowns and fake-out endings give the songs texture. The album can't capture the band's live show, but the spiritedness bleeds through anyway.
Holy Lands play an album release show at the VFW Sat., May 14, at 9 PM, along with Eat Strike and Rooster Sauce.