Sensory Overload: Bonneville

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Before there was “OK Computer,” there was “Pablo Honey.” Before there was “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot,” there was “A.M.” Perhaps someday folks will remember “Amy’s House,” the new album from Columbus quartet Bonneville, as a precursor to some eventual masterpiece.

In the meantime, the album offers merits of its own, which were apparent when the band played Woodlands Tavern last Thursday not long after a two-week tour.

Bonneville makes music just about as straightforward as it comes. It’s vanilla, but it’s a rich, delicious vanilla. Slow-churned.

They’ve clearly spent long hours dissecting great pop through the ages and appropriating what makes a song stick — humongous melodies, driving rhythms, minute details. As always with bands like this, The Beatles are heavy in the mix. I hear The New Pornographers’ high-fructose power-pop and Ben Folds Five’s quirky piano rock in there too, especially when they break out in sighing harmonies and fey “na na nas.”

Lest they neglect arena rock tropes, Bonneville’s “The Uniform” could pass for a Boston B-side. They got the audience to clap along one time. Their mullet-clad drummer even sang lead vocals on one song!

“Time” was not a Pink Floyd cover, nor Hootie and the Blowfish. However, they did present their rendition of The Black Keys’ new “Lonely Boy” — 40 percent less swagger, but a respectable take nonetheless and proof positive that they’re still students of pop DNA.

Speaking of covers: The lead guitarist (whose casual attire suggested he missed his bandmates’ memo about ties and vests) also teased the opening riff from Paul Simon’s “You Can Cal Me Al,” which would have been a more fitting tribute for such a straight-laced ensemble.

Song titles like “Come On Come On” and “If You Were My Girl” indicate that Bonneville is not bursting through any walls lyrically either, but holy hell, are both those songs catchy.

As hinted above, listening to this band transports me to the early works of Wilco and Radiohead, groups that eventually got bored of playing it straight and ended up experimenting their way to timeless classics. Bonneville might be content to graze familiar pastures forever, and I wouldn’t begrudge them that. But I’m curious about what might happen if musicians with such a firm grasp on pop pyrotechnics branched out into unknown realms.