How could I not give a spin to an album titled Multiverse? Essentially a mega-dose of Fringe pop, the 10-track odyssey is fueled by seductive guitar riffs and Bambi Browning’s airy vocals, which float through the songs like a bobbing balloon pushed ever higher into the sky.
The brainchild of Browning and her husband Cole, until now Reptaliens—based in Portland, Ore.—were a psychedelia-tinged synth-pop band that tackled such outlier topics as transhumanism, alien abduction and simulated life. At times, in other words, they sounded like astral travelers from the 1980s who’d indulged just a little too much during a previous trip to 1960s-era Haight-Ashbury. (Either that or they’re just sci-fi geeks.) Some songs worked, some songs flailed, but either way was okay. A goofy charm was on display throughout.
The pandemic caused them to rethink their sound, however, as did a listen to Jane’s Addiction’s “Been Caught Stealing,” which apparently went from cursory to revelatory in the blink of an eye, inspiring them to write what became the album’s first single, the catchy “Like a Dog.”
The album itself opens with “I Feel Fine,” in which Bambi delves into the boredom that became part and parcel of lockdown life.
While elements of ‘90s-era alternative rock swirl through the songs, I still hear a strong ‘80s vibe, but with the era’s synth-pop traded for the heady Paisley Underground sound sculpted by David Roback’s pre-Mazzy Star band, Opal, plus the ‘60s sides that inspired Roback and pals on Rainy Day. Granted, I’m sure those influences are as secondhand to the Brownings as a contact high, but such is life some 40 years on from the halcyon, Day-Glo ‘80s. You take what you can get, you know?
All that said, gauzy yet upbeat melodies seep from the speakers like smoke billowing across a crowded room throughout Multiverse. The goofy charm of their earlier work remains, but is buttressed now by slightly less eccentric, more relatable topics. The album won’t change your life, but that’s not a negative. (How many albums actually do that, anyway?) From start to finish, it’s an eminently pleasurable experience. Give it a go.
The track list: