In the last few years, there’s been an esoteric corner of Seattle’s garage scene producing a series of memorable groups, all of which elude easy classification and offer something interesting to the listener. The Intelligence and Unnatural Helpers both come to mind and, expanding the circle just a bit to include overlapping members, one could also factor in the experimentalists of A Frames, the haunted rock of The Lights, and even the stark, brooding music made by the (now defunct) Dutchess and The Duke. Idle Times fit right in the middle -- Unnatural Helper Dean Whitmore sometimes plays drums in the live version of this band, for instance, and Idle Times songwriter Brian Standeford has joined the Helpers onstage. It’s also worth mentioning the hand of The Fastbacks’ Kurt Bloch here -- he produced Unnatural Helpers’ recent Cracked Love & Other Drugs, and mastered this, the self-titled debut from Idle Times. And as with Bloch’s band, Idle Times temper its more aggressive moments with intuitive integration of classic pop hooks.
The album’s second song, “There You Go,” may also be the apex of its poppy side: an uptempo melody leaping out of a bank of static, Standeford’s multi-tracked vocals yearning and shouting agreeably. Like many of the songs on Idle Times, there’s some dissonance woven in to the exuberance here: throughout, a pair of guitar parts are placed at odds with one another. It’s a a sort of instrumental equivalent of the dueling vocals at the heart of many a Halo Benders song. This tension is applied for the creepiest effect on “Hey Little Girl”: the melody with which it opens is almost breezy, but it’s overlaid with a much louder guitar part and bursts of feedback. Over the course of its four-minute running time, that static eventually drowns out the melody, leaving only momentum.
Elsewhere, “Every Time I Talk” achieves a fuzzed-out bliss on its all-too-brief chorus, and “When You Wish” features a subterranean drum sound and a melody that gradually reduces itself to its most basic components, closing on an intentionally inconclusive note. The give-and-take between fuzz and pop can easily sustain an album of this length (in this case: 10 songs, 27 minutes), and here it does. While not the most full-on rock outfit of their contemporaries or the most esoteric, the members of Idle Times achieve fine results by mixing and matching the places between the two poles, seeding their grit with just enough hooks and their choruses with just enough dissonance to find a niche of their own.