Peel’s eponymous debut was easily one of the best local releases of last year, shambling and slacker certified to perfection. The quintet has proven equally energetic and ramshackled live, Josh Permenter thrusting his guitar into the amps with distorted bliss while Dakota Smith and Allison Moore bounce about the stage in a poppish delight. The group’s new EP, August Exhaust Pipes, which will only be available at their shows, explodes with an even more lo-fi exuberance. The five songs feel joyously careless, the home recording sounding, for better or worse, like a demo. The title track picks up the banter in the background and “Trenchula” seems to even catch the mics being bumped around. In the hands of most bands, it would probably be considered a sloppy and half-assed set-up; for Peel, the intentionally loose aesthetic is the entire point.
If their debut drew justifiable comparisons to Pavement, then the new EP might fall closer towards the Silver Jews. Opener “Selling Shadows” licks a bluesy twang of guitar against finger snapped percussion before Permenter’s lead vocals come in with a cracking moan. “Trenchula” strikes an even more country and Dave Berman-esque tone, Smith’s lyrics dripping out in a drawling viscosity and lines running together: “Nothing lasts but bad songs take too long; take too long and you’re dead, you’re dead to me.” Neither song can maintain its slow pace, though. “Selling Showdows” bounces into its chorus, invoking the cathartic energy of songs like “Oxford” and “In the City” from their first album, and closes with a surprisingly clean guitar solo, while “Trenchula” bleeds into the distortion skuzz opening and Permenter’s slurry lines on “I Will Never Leave,” the lyrics meandering like drunken non-sequitors and eventually adopting some odd Crosby, Stills and Nash “do-do-do-ing” harmonies. It sounds like it should be a mess, but Peel manages to pull off their numerous eccentric contortions in a way that not only works, but that feels inevitable within each song.
“August Exhaust Pipes” is the most divergent tune of EP, with Moore taking lead vocals behind her light keys and a bobbing drum beat. Her clipped delivery and airy lilt sounds like early Rilo Kiley or a less depressing Azure Ray. It’s a beautiful song, even more so given the bizarre and somewhat disturbing lyrics and the gorgeously chiming guitar that slowly soothes in. “Famous Noises,” meanwhile, crashes with a fury, like new wave punk broken by its own sonic reef. For what seems to amount to only a tour EP, August Exhaust Pipes is a solid blast to start the summer, though it really only whets our appetites for something more official. Still, Peel’s songs remain wonderfully disheveled and untamable, even as they show themselves advancing in smart new directions.