Midwestern alternative rock doesn’t wield the same artistic or commercial clout it did during the halcyon days of the nineties or early 21st century, but its lowered profile certainly doesn’t equate to an exhausted musical genre. Inbokeh didn’t get the memo. The three piece from the Columbus, Ohio area first formed in 2015, but the members share connections extending back much further. There’s a strong hint of those shared bonds in the band’s music – these are three players who display much of the frequently ballyhooed “telepathy” that musicians frequently refer to. They play in total sympathy with each other and there isn’t a moment on Into the Sun when one member seems to take over the spotlight at the expense of his band mates or the song.
“Cool Kids” is a strong start. The song has a crashing, stormy tempo that never even flirts with a mid-tempo crawl. Instead, guitarist Danial Swafford unleashes a torrential six string assault compromised of outsized, open chords contrasted with crackling sheets of feedback receding and spreading across the song. The full out rock swagger and muscle of “Too Good to Be My Devil” recalls the velocity of great alternative rock bands like Stone Temple Pilots without ever imitating them completely. Cody Smith’s wicked crisp drumming is ideally captured by the production and he clearly relishes the chance to lead such a hard-charging track. Jonathan Burgess’ vocal is a big reason why the track invites comparisons to bands like STP thanks to his soulful bray showing off vocal range that the first song scarcely knows about at all.
Like “Too Good to be My Devil”, “Spend Time” is an exquisitely brief tune clocking in at a little less than three minutes. It accomplishes much in that short span, just like its predecessor, but the production job distinguishing the preceding song so much deserts the band on this track. The instrumental balance setting this EP apart on other songs disappears under washes of Swafford’s playing. The EP’s nominal title cut, “Head Out into the Sun”, takes on a mid-tempo march from the beginning and makes a steady, forceful impact on the listener. Inbokeh doesn’t neglect dynamics though. The song’s softer sections contrast sharply with its more strident moments and help it rank among the EP’s more dramatic moments.
The herky jerky rhythms of “Stay” don’t dig into listener’s consciousnesses with the same authority that the earlier, more melodic tracks do. However, Swafford’s guitar work conjures an impressive whirlwind of sound. The EP’s final cut “Ghosts in My Hallway” brings the band’s talent for guitar-based melodies back to the fore and serves up an equally compelling vocal melody that seems to emerge from somewhere deep within the distorted riffing. It’s the longest track on the band’s debut and ends things in a resounding fashion. There’s a gloriously go-for-broke quality in Inbokeh’s music that seems closer to a punk rock spirit than alt rock and mixing it with their melodic sensibilities generates a lot of sparks. Into the Sun is the sort of release, however brief, that gives lie to the idea rock music is a dead genre.
9 out of 10 stars.