More than an extra-large coffee or a slap in the face, Wine Lips’s sophomore effort Stressor is the sudden kick of adrenaline you need to get you through the day. The first time I put this on I was hungover and tattooed to my couch; nothing or no one could get me up. With a sudden blast of Cam Hilborn’s guitar, it was almost as if I had been hoisted off my ass and thrown into a cold lake. I found myself headbanging around my apartment despite wanting to die a few seconds prior. Only the most effective kind of garage rock can leave you powerless to its primitive energy. I don’t mean to sound like an infomercial, but if you are a self-respecting rock fan you need to have this part of your musical diet!
What’s most fascinating about Wine Lips is that they aren’t as loud as you would expect. The thing that we’ll get you moving isn’t glass shattering noise but unrelenting energy. There is so much urgency in the playing of rhythm section Richard Stewart and Aurora Evans, it’s almost as if they are in some kind of Speed scenario; if they stop or slow down they will explode! Vocalist and guitarist Cam Hilborn is there to make sense of what the hell is going on. If Stewart and Evans are the out of control bus then Hilborn is Keanu Reeves. His guitar playing is simply majestic and the calm amid the storm. That’s not to say he’s not capable of a killer riff or five. Some of the most exciting moments are when he is unleashed. I’d even go as far as saying this one of the best guitarist showcases in recent memory because the singing practically takes a back seat.
This is not to say that Hilborn’s singing isn’t essential to Stressor’s success, it is actually what gives the music its quirky edge. He has a commanding yelp that is often buried in the mix and weaves in and out like a weird friend yelling strange anecdotes in your ear. His delivery comes off as if it’s trying to get past his tongue firmly in cheek. You won’t know whether to trust him or not but he’s so charming that you can’t help but go along for the ride anyway. This is especially true during some of the straightforward tracks like “Fly Swatter” and “Electric Lady.” In the latter, he seems so enamoured with this “lady” but in a way that he’s more her Flavor Flav-Esque hype man than her potential suitor. It’s all just so quirky and fun! Although what more could you expect from a band that all wear matching red tracksuits as if they are from The Royal Tenenbaums?
The album’s greatness hinges on long and winding epics like “Shark Eyes,” “Fried II,” and “Sidetrack.” Despite reaching the five-minute mark without a single moment for a breather, none of them wear out their welcome. Opener “Shark Eyes” is probably the most effective of the bunch mainly because it sets the mood so well and never lets up. It’s the same thing as putting on a movie and the first scene is a heart-pumping chase scene. Thankfully this is the Mad Max: Fury Road of albums, in that every proceeding song is a chase scene too. On paper, this sounds exhausting but the grooves are so hypnotic you won’t notice when it’s all over. Forget speed or any drug of the kind, Stressor is 2019s best garage rock release and thus the only boost you need!
Written by Shawn Thicke
*edited by Danielle Kenedy