Last time I was in Cleveland, it seemed to be dying. The east side hangouts I use to frequent were gone. I drove downtown and the streets were ripped up with construction. Headed over to the Flats after that to discover empty streets where there use to be boats, bars and booze everywhere. The city may be heading the same way as the majority of the country in regards to jobs, industry and economics, but musically there seems to be a little something going on. Herzog are the latest of a current steady stream of quality bands coming out of this north coast city.
After a split single with UK band Yuck, Transparent records decided to take this promising Cleveland band along with them on the label’s first foray into 12″ records and albums. The album is called Search and is steeped in the sounds of the 90’s similar to the Happy Birthday record that came out earlier this year on Sub Pop. It’s heartfelt, earnest and at times feels like a desolate Cleveland street. There are upbeat songs like Living Alone with its Vampire Weekend-like guitars, and the complete rock-out Paul Blart and the Death of Art, but it still has this pervasive sadness to it. Sadness like Buffalo Tom use to do so well even when they were rocking out, or the plaintive kind that Pavement excelled at on songs like Range Life, Here and Summer Babe. Nick Tolar has a voice that can do big and loud but also he also has a softer acoustic, folky side. Culture of Faggots sounds like a Dylan song and Steady Hands could be Crosby, Stills and Nash or Band of Horses.
As a whole, the record is a little scattershot, but the good songwriting keeps it from losing the plot. As a first record it’s pretty damn good, and I can see Herzog moving onto a much bigger label, but for now cheers to Transparent for unearthing this band with huge potential from a city currently not living up to its own.