Herzog returns with Cartoon Violence, their first full-length since 2009’s, Search, which earned the band positive reviews from the likes of NME, Pitchfork, and NPR’s All Songs Considered. Cartoon Violence finds the band expounding and improving upon the aesthetic and themes that deservedly earned them comparisons to iconic bands in the pantheon of ‘90’s “slacker-rock.”
However, where Search was primarily the work of front man Nick Tolar, Cartoon Violence is the product of a full band and their inclusion and influence has markedly enlivened the band’s musical palette. With the addition of lyricist Tony Vorell, Herzog’s subject matter has grown darker---failed relationships, soldiers returning from war, and the contradictory aspects of human relationships---but these sometimes heady topics are treated with a strong sense of irreverence and cynicism that keeps things spirited.
Instrumentally, the songs continue to explore the fringes of many genres ranging from 1970s FM radio Americana balladeering (Dreaming Man II), McCartney-esque pop stylings (Feedback), and straightforward power-pop (Alexander the Great). The melodies remain soaring and elegant, the arrangements beautifully complex and catchy, and the instrumentation ideally and intelligently complimenting the lyrics of each song.
But don’t be mistaken---the loving nods to the 90’s are still present with songs like “You Clean Up Nice,” which is reminiscent of Jawbreaker at their poppiest but infused with a more flippant attitude towards the weight of the world. The Ballad of Rich People conjures up images of Keep it like a Secret-era Built to Spill, with its wild guitar-work---both slide and solo.