The Tills (formerly The Critters) play every song like rock ‘n’ roll was just discovered and their veins run with undiluted caffeine. And that’s the elevator pitch for the local band’s new 7-inch, Howlin’ (out on Phuzz Records): A hyper-bombastic dash through Animals-era rock, made more jangly, more garage-y and, ultimately, more fun. The album’s four songs (six with downloads) are at once exhausting and not enough. It’s the experience that the masterminds behind The Color Run — that race where runners are repeatedly belted with pastel paint — were going for when they coined the phrase, “The Happiest 5K on the Planet.” Nope, sorry. Sweat + crowds + exertion + spandex = total suck. The Tills will get you sweaty and breathless, no workout-wear required.
The title track is all snap and snarl, Harry Harrison’s voice ragged from the first note. “Just keep your feet off my lawn, keep your crooked fingers out of my house,” he sings. The swagger, the chunky chords and the demon-whipped tambourine all add to the melee which seems to run right into the next track.
“Who Wants You” starts in earnest around the 30 second mark. It’s is poppier and dancier. Harrison hits a Beatles-esque falsetto while his bandmates fill in sneery background vocals. Hand claps, a searing guitar part and bracing drums put the song through its paces.
At a runtime of less than 10 minutes (almost 17 with the two additional downloads), there’s no time to spare: The Tills thunder on through the scalding “Gee Golly.” That song makes fine use of Harrison’s high register and his ability to move between a throaty howl and an aerial croon with gymnastic ease. So the songcraft takes some cues from rock history’s most theatrical vocalists — the Meatloafs, the Freddie Mercurys, the Heart Sisters — but the speed and muscle of these tracks nods more to a punk aesthetic. Three minutes or less, equal parts crisp and sloppy, expression before polish every time. That’s a good thing.
“Heart Is,” with the opening line, “I was drinking that hooch, I was kissing that pooch,” is a thumbed nose and an enviable set of dance moves. “Mackey’s Creek,” the first of the downloads, with its shuddering tempo and layered textures, ends so abruptly that it feels almost incomplete. But it gives way to the album’s longest song — and second bonus track — “I Can’t Afford Myself.”
This is the one place where The Tills stretch out, giving the song room to build and Harrison’s voice space to unfurl into its unpredictable lash and yowl. Guitars stamp up and down scales while the drums thunder, threatening, in the background. It’s this song, with its cinematic break and unfettered creative spirit, that feels like The Tills’ finest moment. As if, in the generous space of four minutes and 14 seconds, they not only blow the roof off, but make art from the ruins.
The Tills play a record release show at The Mothlight on Friday, Sept. 12. 9 p.m. The Blots, Estrangers and T0W3RS also perform. $10 includes vinyl record.