This is the kind of album you’d listen to driving up the coast on Highway 1 heading out of Ventura County, CA. I can think of no better background for the newest album from Guards. In Guards We Trust, a follow-up to their 2010 self-titled EP, has got that west coast feel. That might sound strange coming from a New York band, but the dreamy, surf rock electric guitars, the lo-fi vocals and the lyrics all evoke thoughts of the Pacific, even for a Wisconsin boy like myself.
This album takes the lo-fi sound and polishes it. I’m on the fence about this. First of all, polished lo-fidelity is somewhat of an oxymoron. It seems that by refining their recording process they lost the rawness that made their EP so enjoyable. On the other hand, the instruments sound that much better. The guitars are clear and the drums hit harder. They aren’t lost in the sea of nostalgic production. On “I Know It’s You” Guards gives us the best of both worlds. Frontman Richie Follin’s voice, with just the perfect amount of distortion, yowls its way over a really solid rhythmic performance. The best moment of the song, and maybe of the entire album, comes at around the two minute mark. “That’s the girl I love,/ and she’s coming home for me” followed by an unintelligible guitar screech leading right into a solo. It’s these moments that really stood out on In Guards We Trust, and that keep the record from sounding too pop.
Overall, the album plays well. Uptempo, and upbeat, it conjures visions of warmer weather, which might be exactly what we need this winter. Unfortunately some of the tracks are easily forgettable, but the catchy anthem choruses of “Nightmare”, the British invasion sound on “Can’t Repair” and the previously mentioned “I Know It’s You” are enjoyable and make the album worth a listen or two. Highly recommended, especially if you want your music to contradict your weather.