From the Oblivians' brokenhearted beatdowns to Thee Oh Sees' manic and merciless sprints, from Nobunny's outlandish debauchery to Mikal Cronin's bruising stadium pop, many thrilling sounds get thrown under the increasingly broad umbrella of garage rock. Still, they all hinge on base-level aggression. This is rock 'n' roll, after all; incidental intricacies don't mean a thing if the music doesn't provide that primal release.
Enter Carrboro's The Wyrms. Born from the amicable end of the softer and more expansive Rogue Band of Youth, they trumpet their arrival with the strong The Wyrms at Wizard Island. The Wyrms explore the magical and mysterious with a decided sense of whimsy. To wit, the galloping "I Only Date Wizards" keys on an unabashedly nerdy come-on—"Please be my witch/I'll be your mage." The Wyrms wear these ridiculous subjects with charming pride.
But rather than reveling in novelty, they dig deep into each lark, allowing their made-up monsters to threaten even as they entertain. The opening "Vampire" streaks ahead with burly bass and eerie harmonies, and The Wyrms use the villain as a stand-in for lecherous desires. "I wanna taste the soft of your skin," Jack Hartley wails. "I wanna feel my teeth digging in."
Even better is "Woke Up Dead," which targets a Frankenstein-inspired relationship between creator and creation to explore themes of control. "When you wake up dead in the morning/With a hungry fire burning/I'm gonna feed you something fresh," Hartley roars, basking in newfound power. But control rarely stays with one person for long: "Now take your hands off me you beast/I'm your creator, not your feast," he eventually moans, making it hard to tell who comes out on top.
Not every moment on At Wizard Island reaches such dizzying heights. But when The Wyrms focus on the fierce intensity of their menacing subjects, they're a welcome new oddity inside the garage rock freak show.
Label: Negative Fun