The Gales: "Lucky Joe"
By Calum Marsh | 27 February 2009
Whether it inspires resentment or admiration, one piece of trivia about the Gales is guaranteed to stand out and stare you down, begging for a double-take and a hanging jaw: they’re sixteen years old. Barely halfway through high school, they’re three years too young to be legally admitted into the venues they’ve been playing. Few kids this age are interested enough to get together and form a real band, and even fewer are committed (not to mention resourceful) enough to record an album or play legitimate concerts opening for established and popular bands. And anyway, I thought all the ambitious teenage music enthusiasts formed emo or post-hardcore groups, rounding out nine-band bills in church basements, spending all their lunch money on professional Myspace layouts and big hairdos. That the Arcade Fire and the Walkmen have fans who are barely old enough to drive a car is news to me, let me tell you.
I suppose the Gales will be lumped in with teen contemporaries Tokyo Police Club and Born Ruffians, and on a certain level the comparison holds up. This is another quirky indie rock outfit, all youthful verve and vitality, goofy smiles on their faces and hearts on their sleeves. But where Tokyo Police Club and to lesser extent Born Ruffians fall short is the over-emphasis on style as a means of compensating for a lack of substance. Both bands fared much better on their respective 2006 EPs than on their subsequent full-length records because what they did well—providing instant gratification in the form of succinct, saccharine indie rock jams—wore thin across the length of a full album, revealing a core vacuity that their earliest material had cleverly effaced. Maybe it didn’t come as a total shock, but it was a bit of a disappointment; this was the musical equivalent of discovering that your hot date has commitment issues.
“Lucky Joe” smartly avoids the problem by keeping things light and simple: this is breezy, unpretentious indie rock with no bells or whistles. If the Tokyo Police Club policy is more equals better, throwing it all in on every song—handclaps, sing-alongs, synthesizers, cheering—the Gales subscribe to the opposite philosophy: why bloat things needlessly when the song itself is so well-written? For this reason the Gales have more in common with Vampire Weekend, a band whose succinct and saccharine indie rock jams were effortless, light, and fun, able to withstand the scrutiny Tokyo Police Club’s could not. The Gales seem to understand that, and “Lucky Joe” demonstrates it perfectly. Now let’s just hope they don’t fuck it up on the inevitable LP.