Nick Reinhart can shred. As a member of Tera Melos, he’s helmed four full-length albums of complex, experimental indie rock prominently comprising intricate rhythms, effects-driven psychedelia, and a giddily rewarding path of most resistance. Their music is appealing because it’s overwhelming, not in spite of it. Listening to a band like Tera Melos provides a kind of rush that more conventional bands simply can’t. Of course, that’s not all Reinhart can do—it logically follows that if someone can make music that elaborate, they can certainly pull off something simpler and more immediate. It’s simply a question of whether or not doing something simpler, more melodic, more hook-driven has the same kind of appeal when you’re capable of doing something so much more challenging.
In the case of the first album credited to Disheveled Cuss—Reinhart’s catchier alt-rock/power-pop project, whose roots date back to demos he made nearly 15 years ago—the appeal should be obvious to anyone with a yen for indie rock’s 120 Minutes moments, grunge at its most bubblegum, or simply pop music of any kind. The focus here isn’t so much the instrumentation or musicianship; Reinhart is still the captain of this ship, and in his hand these fuzzed-out anthems still occasionally veer off course in spectacularly satisfying ways—like in “She Don’t Want,” wherein Reinhart treats Teenage Fanclub-style jangle to a game of time-signature hopscotch. It’s just that the intricacy of the arrangements is less the defining feature than an added bonus.
It’s not as if Reinhart’s music with Tera Melos wasn’t melodic or even accessible, but Disheveled Cuss shines the spotlight on his ability to write unshakable hooks. Leadoff track “Generic Song About You” pairs the dense distortion of early Weezer with the razor-sharp rhythmic twitch of Pixies in their prime, which adds up to a track that feels warmly inviting and tensely muscular at once. “Nu Complication” is spacious and summery, each two-note riff ringing out with a kind of romantic shimmer, while “Fawn” builds up to a chorus of burly fretwork that reminds us of what makes Reinhart’s guitar playing such a delight to listen to. Even when Disheveled Cuss streamline into a sleek, post-punk-inspired sound on “Oh My God,” Reinhart lamenting to himself, “I don’t feel any better…“, it’s always just a measure or two away from a brief moment of pop glory. Everything here is.
During the chorus of “Don’t Paint the Sun,” Disheveled Cuss layer on a blend of distorted and clean guitars, vocal harmonies and sun-bleached melodies. It sounds like the perfect score to the summer that we probably won’t get, at least not like we imagined it six months ago. But if we entertain the possibility of cranking this up on the way to the beach, only to be met with the reality that we probably shouldn’t even get out of the car, at least we can imagine some fantasy scenario of taking a summer road-trip in the ice cream truck from Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” video on an extended detour up the coast.