Art by Beyza Çelikmen
“Brilliant Volume” by Poppy (Poppy, 2022)
The power of rock music exists in tension: the push and pull of quiet and loud, two diametrically opposite forces working with, yet against, each other. With no contrast, rock music is just gray. Sometime in the 90s, we decided that Loud Was More Good and that every song was better with mountains of overdubs and almost embarrassingly heart-wrenching vocals. Enter Poppy: a Philly indie rock trio who has been releasing great rock music off-and-on since 1994. Their music is weighty and powerful yet light as a feather, switching easily between emotions and ideas in its adventurous and refreshing songwriting. It takes ideas from the 1970s through the 1990s and elevates them with new heaviness, great attention to detail, and clean production. “Brilliant Volume” from Poppy is their newest offering of concise, powerful rock songs, tracks that earn their intensity with great craft and performances.
Poppy is comprised of Brian Campbell on bass, Craig Heim on drums, and Kate Campbell on guitar--Robbie Bennett of the War on Drugs also contributes keys to the three tracks on “Brilliant Volume.” Their time as a band, working together and playing shows, really emerges in their playing; it sounds loose and live, ringing out through HiWatt amps and echoing around the room. Their influences (Superchunk, That Dog, and even electric blues) are just that: shades they use to color their compositions, which stand remarkably on their own. “Trophy Hunter,” the first track on the release, is perhaps Poppy’s most immediate and throttling performance. Heim flies across the kit while Brian Campbell lays down a thick, propulsive bassline. It’s a song that starts at 10, and proceeds to contrast it beautifully. In its last minute, “Trophy Hunter” eases off of the pedal into a controlled outro that slows the song down, just momentarily, preparing us for their next track, and the EP’s centerpiece.
“What Just Happened?” is Poppy at their most adventurous. It is rock music that knows how to experiment with its very identity. Echoes of Patti Smith and the Rolling Stones merge with Soundgarden and even Sonic Youth, with hairpin turns leading to great and surprising moments of rock catharsis, each member playing as hard as they can. Poppy’s talent as a unit shines on this song: how the trio plays off of each other, listening as a team. This song also has Kate Campbell’s best (and most out-there) vocal performance on the EP; the spoken word outro is simultaneously bizarre and serene.
“Brilliant Volume” ends spectacularly with “E-Z Ringer,” a song that feels like an unearthed 90’s gem. Heim lays down a tight groove that layers with a candy-colored bass line until distorted guitars ring in and tie the song together. Over three minutes, Poppy blow the track wide open: performing their riff louder and louder, playing the hell out of it until it comes winding back down to earth. It feels like a victory lap for the band; a clean, classic song that bristles with noise and emotion. Poppy’s latest is a great showing for the trio: three songs that are high-contrast, immediate, and aiming for the stars.
You can stream “Brilliant Volume” on Spotify, and purchase a CD from the band on Bandcamp: