Posted by: Necci – Apr 11, 2012
The Trillions are an RVA-based power pop band who formed a couple years ago and have been making a big impression on the Richmond music scene during their time together. Featuring former members of previous RVA power-poppers Prabir And The Substitutes and The Awesome Few, these guys have plenty of experience at constructing well-crafted pop songs, which explains why this their debut full-length has such an assured, coherent sound. While The Trillions avoid falling into the trap of writing according to a formula, they manage to retain a sonic unity throughout this album without ever letting it get boring.
The main influence that comes through in their songwriting is that of The Beatles. While this is the sort of influence that everyone playing melodic rock music anytime in the past 40+ years has felt to some extent, it's actually pretty rare in this day and age to encounter the kind of direct, easily traceable Beatles influence that shows up throughout Tritones; such a sound was much more common 20 or more years ago than it is now. It's for that reason that The Trillions' Beatlesque qualities actually have the surprising effect of distinguishing them from the pack. "You Gotta Be Kidding Me" is the sort of catchy, fun power-pop tune that one doesn't hear too much of anymore. Far from being a cliche, its midtempo, singsongy chorus feels refreshing, and gets its hooks deeper into the listener's brain from the very first listen as a result.
Similarly engaging moments also occur even on the album's harder-hitting tunes. "Calm Down"'s stop-start chorus is built around the contrast of a chunky guitar part and a sweet, tuneful vocal line, which makes it work better than either of its contrasting halves would work on their own. Even the tunes here that allow guitarists Charlie Glenn and Chris Smith to really crank the gain and let rip will keep listeners' toes tapping with their solid riffs. "I.C.C.B.," for my money the best three minutes of this entire album, hearkens back to first-wave punkers like The Jam and Stiff Little Fingers--groups that, even at the height of the "no future" punk craze, were obviously influenced by the same 60s guitar-driven pop music that The Trillions are clearly drawing from.
Tritones is not without its stranger moments--"Parallelograms" is built around an effect-drenched lead guitar part (which I'm still not entirely convinced isn't actually an effect-drenched keyboard part) that resembles nothing so much as the melody line from the music tracks on a classic 8-bit Nintendo cartridge. If you stripped the real live drums off the track and layered a primitive drum machine beat underneath it, you could easily convince me that I'm listening to an outtake from the soundtrack to Mega Man 2. And for those who are wondering whether I think this is a good or bad thing, well, I'm afraid I haven't yet figured that out myself. But for every headscratching moment like this (and there aren't many), The Trillions provide several other shining gems--for example, Robbie King's excellent walking bass line on "For The Better." And it must be mentioned that this strange 8-bit style guitar effect is used to much better results on the descending melody line that drives the excellent chorus of "Ctrl-X Ctrl-V."
Overall, Tritones is a great album. It totally surpassed my expectations. Honestly, as a power-pop fan myself, I tend to prefer Beatles influences to be filtered through the more guitar-oriented sounds of the next generation of power-pop groups--heavier, more proto-punk groups from the 70s like Big Star and Cheap Trick. On first listen, I was a tiny bit bothered by the fact that The Trillions weren't approaching the genre the same way personal faves like Teenage Fanclub or The Posies did. But over the course of a few listens, they completely won me over. Of course, if you're already a fan, as many local residents are, you won't need any convincing to love this album. But if you're still on the fence about The Trillions, give this album a chance. I'm sure you'll end up loving it just as much as I did.
The Trillions' official record release party for Tritones is this Saturday, April 14, at Gallery 5 (200 W. Marshall St.), starting at 8 PM. Also performing will be Black Girls and Kid Is Qual. Admission is $5. This event is also Gallery 5's official 7th Birthday Bash, and there will be raffles and silent auctions featuring products and services from local businesses.
By Andrew Necci photo by Sarah Walor