For its last record, 1998's Villa Elaine, Remy Zero holed up in the hotel of the same name, a once great Hollywood hostelry-turned-artists'-flophouse. The group spent two years crafting the album, an outpouring of rich existential pop, which faded like so many L.A. dreams. Finding an audience to sustain their brand of ethereal alt-rock has been a problem for these five nomadic artists ever since they came together as high schoolers in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1989, and traveled across the U.S looking for acceptance. Their self-titled debut album, a compilation of dreamy ambient rock à la Brian Eno and Television, sold less than 2,000 copies. So don't be surprised when no one bats an eye at The Golden Hum, the band's first album in three years and its first on Elektra. Though it's as aggressive, moody, and polished as anything by U2 or Radiohead, The Golden Hum isn't likely to top the charts.
A collection of 12 songs (counting its final, unlisted track), The Golden Hum is a contrast of lights and darks, pivoting on Cinjun Tate's seraphic vocals, brother Shelby Tate's grating guitar work, and Jack Joseph Puig's blistering production. Like Villa Elaine's sleeper single, the sonic "Prophecy," The Golden Hum's second track, "Glorious #1," ignites the album, building on dark, slippery guitar work before Tate's searing chorus galvanizes its textures to life. Other songs, such as "Out/In" and "Bitter," decelerate into elegant pop ballads as Puig casts uplifting symphonic arrangements over somber guitar tones and pensive lyrics. If the album stumbles, it's in the overproduction of a track like "Perfect Memory," whose overpowering pop sheen and melodrama lead to the indulgent glam-rock that sometimes drowned Bowie. But even at its most pretentious, Remy Zero still has the ability to create bronzed harmonies out of layered sounds.