If The Locals were an item of clothing, they would be a neatly pressed pair of designer vintage “distressed” jeans—$200 pants with holes, bleach stains, and grease marks already worked in. The Locals have a crafted sound that has been tweaked and molded into a perfect pair of pre-worn pants. Steven Gillis, the producer of their album, has manufactured a sound that has every ounce of distortion honed into a meticulous arc; every howl from lead singer Yvonne Doll’s voice is finely tuned until it cracks in just the right way in all of the right places. Perhaps music this polished in production isn’t really my thing, but I have to give the band credit for putting a whole lot of time and trouble into a finished product. They are clearly very dedicated (despite being unsigned) with an arty CD cover design, professional website, and squeaky clean production values.
The Locals are a good band. They are passionate musicians who have spent a lot of time and energy making a product that has everything but a record label. But here’s where I have to criticize. They list three major influences in their band bio which are The Pixies, The Killers, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Killers, perhaps. But the Pixies? The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? Really? If The Locals are a pair of distressed designer jeans, the Pixies are a sweat-stained t-shirt from a thrift store, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a sparkly space-ballet jump suit. The Locals are way, way too polished for a Pixies reference, and way, way too run of the mill to be compared to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I’m not saying their music is bad. I’m just saying The Locals sound like they have radio-friendly hits that are so clean, crisp, and focused on slick production values that they could be on Top 40 radio right now. Think Matthew Sweet (another one of their cited influences, from their MySpace page) and you would be barking up a much closer tree. I don’t mind Matthew Sweet—the guy did have some catchy pop-sugar hits back in the mid-nineties—but he sure wasn’t singing about slicing up eyeballs, and his videos never featured little kids chopping off each other’s limbs. Somehow, I can’t see that kind of dark weirdness coming from The Locals, either. They’re good, they’re tidy, and they’re tight as hell. But Black Francis in a stained thrift store tee, they certainly are not.