Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance review – an indie rock masterclass

A debut album drawing on shoegaze, jangle, grunge and alt-rock is saved from nostalgia by the sheer quality of the music

Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance album cover.
Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance album cover. Photograph: Publicity image

Horsegirl are three Chicago teens – Nora Cheng, Penelope Lowenstein and Gigi Reece – here to prove that being born in the 21st-century is no barrier to indulging in 80s and 90s indie nostalgia. On their debut album, the trio string together the best bits of shoegaze, C86, jangle, grunge and alt-rock into songs whose hyper-melodic sweetness is offset by what seems like the scientifically optimal amount of sour, grinding dissonance. Helmed by veteran producer John Agnello (who worked with some of the era’s original stars, including the Breeders and Dinosaur Jr), Versions of Modern Performance often feels like slipping into a warm bath: the familiarity is immensely comforting. Certain tracks, like opener Anti-glory, with its ghostly layering of hooks, possess the sense of inevitability common to the very best rock and pop: the more you listen, the more impossible it seems that this song did not already exist.

Horsegirl: Anti-glory – video

Clearly, originality is not what Horsegirl is going for. Yet their evocation of the past doesn’t feel cloying or unimaginative, ringing instead with the understanding that – nowadays, at least – making gratifying guitar music usually doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. The lyrics, however, don’t provide that instant rush: seemingly shooting for the surreal, they end up sounding undercooked and generally impenetrable: it’s very difficult to read anything even vaguely meaningful into lines like “while Emma eggs her head she looks the same” (World of Pots and Pans). It’s the only element of this album that serves as a reminder of its creators’ inexperience – the rest is a masterclass in a new kind of classic rock.


Rachel Aroesti

The GuardianTramp

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