Here we arrive, finally, with Guards‘ debut album. Every single thing they’ve released previously, from their debut EP to the epic jam “Do It Again”, was absolutely stellar. All signs pointed to a band headed straight for the top, and although they’ve lost a little bit of their flair in the time between releases, Guards largely delivers on In Guards We Trust, an album just as melodic and bombastic as any of their previous releases.
For longtime fans, the first few tracks will be both familiar and completely underwhelming. Although every element is in just the right place – the singalong choruses, the slick bass grooves, the obscured vocals – both “Nightmare” and “Giving Out” just don’t offer the same fun earworms that the Guards EP did. They grow on you over time, but they never feel as organic or immediate as any of the other songs do.
Despite a poor opening, there are numerous highlights on the album: the uptempo “Silver Lining”, the gorgeous ballad “1 & 1″, the summer jam “Coming True”, the haunting psych-folk-tinged “Your Man”. These songs all remind me of a time less than two years ago when the Guards EP was literally all I listened to. “Coming True”, in particular, is a great song and an even better first single. There is no pretension or artsy noodling on the track whatsoever; this song is probably the single greatest rock song in Guards‘ catalog for one reason: simplicity. The verses are mellow, the choruses are loud, and the melody is instantly memorable. It’s Guards doing what they do best, effortlessly straddling the line between rock and pop, writing appealing and memorable songs that ooze feelgood vibes. Guards obviously have themselves pretty well figured out by now, and frontman Richie Follin’s previous experience with both Willowz and Cults (yes, Madeline is his sister) seem to have given him a very strong sense of direction.
Guards revel in jangly rock songs swathed in reverb, distorted guitars, and intelligently selected 60s vibes, and the aesthetic is fun as hell; if you don’t get up and dance to at least one song on this record, then you’re doing it wrong. The only problem is that it’s an aesthetic that only works for short amounts of time. 46 minutes of formulaic rock of any kind will wear down any listener, no matter how awesome it is. Like so many overambitious debut albums, if Guards had simply trimmed the fat, In Guards We Trust would no doubt be an early contender for “album of the year”.