Anyone who has seen Boone's Naked Gods live would likely scoff at the title of No Jams, the band's absorbing sophomore effort. After all, the band's energetic stage show is pretty much all jams — a high-octane tangle of kinetic bass lines, twisted guitarmonies and piercing vocals that fly off the rails with the energy few (if any) N.C. bands can match.
Strangely, No Jams is a fitting name for an album that strips back the adrenaline and noise from the Gods' top-flight indie rock and allows the band's tones and songwriting to shine through. At first, it seems like a puzzling move — abandoning your best assets to show off the elements that get overshadowed. Luckily for Naked Gods, their talents go beyond their impressive performances.
Their folk-via-Wilco-leaning songs sparkle in this environment, highlighting the lush melodic interplay between the group's two stand-out guitarists, Christian Smith and Brian Knox. "Shaq & Diane," the album's most kinetic and intense song, opens with an earworm dual by Smith and Knox. Bereft of noisy backwash, they bend the riff subtly, allow it to shift in both tone and arrangement and heighten the song's off-kilter energy. It's a simple but devastating riff, and the guitar tones are incredibly vivid.
The songs themselves live up to the band's impressive sonics. "Jeff October" skewers the nation's current economic upheaval as Seth Sullivan sings with cutting sarcasm, "Not a hair from the head of a billionaire have we used to prop us up." Lines like that are too good to be buried by distortion.