Scene Point Blank – March 2021
This is music for a cloudy day. Titled Ephemeral, Groupie’s debut full-length is moody and fleeting and, to me, delivers a dream-like quality at its best moments.
The songs are driven by a rhythmic staccato approach that has a hushed, sing-song quality and occasionally mixes it up with a call-and-response tandem approach. The guitars establish the tone with clean, pristine vibes that cut through foggy basslines. Sometimes that bass pushes to the front; it’s a back-and-forth sunshine vs. fog feeling over the 10 songs.
The press sheet shouts out influences like Sleater-Kinney and The Breeders. Initially I was skeptical that those two bands had much overlap, but Groupie finds a way in those tempo shifts to sound like each of those influences equally. There are also hints of latter-era The Clash and Sonic Youth’s hushed vocals.
As a big Breeders fan, the dreamier songs like “Thick As Glue” and “Daleko” grab me the most. The vocal tradeoffs and dynamic shifts in “Thick As Glue” are the standout on the album, capturing that Breeders atmosphere but with something of a post-rock wave-and-crash emotional climax that takes place throughout the song. I wish the whole record did this because it’s both beautiful and powerful. It’s effectively moody without being dramatic, with shades of empowerment, positivity and grace. Then, with “Daleko” right after it, including verses in Polish, there’s an added depth that gives a little more personality.
There are flashes of anger in “Industry” and “Waiting,” which also flex a little more muscle and frustration. When it comes out, it’s subdued and feels like it’s held down: a restrained yell with cloudy backing music instead of a lightning crash.
I like a lot of these elements, but they’re inconsistent. Overall, the record shows promise but it feels too derivative. There’s nothing wrong with Ephemeral per se, but if you’re wanting to hear shades of the bands namedropped with the release, you’re better off just going to the originals.
Ephemeral isn’t bad. But it often comes across as a young band, still struggling to define its own sound while cultivating from its influences. If you like The Breeders or ever wanted to hear a toned-down version of Sleater-Kinney with post-punk influences there is something here for you but, to me, it’s not a finished product yet.