This is a review of “Don’t Worry This Is Okay,” the new EP by Lowell’s Inspector 34. However, I’m going to first talk about a show called “The Adventures of Pete and Pete,” a children’s television program that aired on Nickelodeon during the early to mid 1990s. It was what you might call a “quirky” TV show. For a lot of millennials, it was their introduction to the world of quirky humor. That’s why it should come as little surprise that the name “Inspector 34” is actually a reference to this very TV show.
I say this because I think Inspector 34 is a band that embraces the “quirkier” side of rock music as they draw upon influences like Pavement, Sonic Youth, and The Birthday Party to craft some delightfully oddball indie rock. As a disclaimer, I can’t be sure that Inspector 34 were, in fact, influenced by the bands I mentioned. If you go to their Facebook profile and look at their influences section, it simply says “You figure it out. Genius.” I can only assume that I am the genius they were referring to, and that was my best attempt to “figure it out.”
The EP has four disparate, yet coherent tracks. In other words, each song is distinct and stands on its own yet they all fit nicely together. Its tone ranges from melodic and sweet to dissonant and noisy.
One of the album’s hooks are the vocals of Jim Warren who also plays guitar and is the main songwriter of the band. Warren is what some might describe as a “bad singer”. And I don’t at all mean that as an insult. Look at the bands I listed as their influences. Not one member of those three bands is what you would call a traditionally good singer. Sometimes, in this world of quirky indie rock, it takes a “bad” vocalist to really set the mood of the music. And that is exactly what Jim Warren does- especially on “Hurts,” in which he transitions between a raspy whine and full out scream. And this isn’t a verse-to-verse or verse-to-chorus transition. This is from line to line. And he seems to do it instinctively.
Another track in which Warren’s vocals stood out to me were on “Try So Hard.” The song includes positive and reassuring lines like “Keep looking up and things will get better.” However, when Warren shouts these lines he sounds more like a maniacal, menacing ringmaster of some kind of spooky circus. He certainly sounds like he’s mocking the listener, implying that things will not, in fact “get better.” And it makes you question the title of the EP. Maybe we should be worried. And this is not okay.
Musically, we have guitar riffs that can be melodic and even pretty. However, they can also be noisy and dissonant. The synthesizers give the already awesome songs an extra dimension that I can only describe as “atmospheric” or even “cinematic.” The drumming is pretty straightforward, but still quite diverse. “Fed up” has a funky 5/4 beat. “Hurts” almost has a smooth jazz inspired rhythm. And “That Charming Man” brings it full force with some break-neck pace punk rock-style drumming.
Overall, we have an EP of four great indie rock tunes, which are catchy and rocking enough to have some mainstream appeal. At the same time, they’re bizarre enough to appeal to music fans who want nothing to do with the world of mainstream rock. I guess you could say it has outsider appeal while still being accessible to many. You know… kind of like that TV show, “The Adventures of Pete and Pete.” – Dave Boz