Leo Son, frontman of the Q-Tip Bandits, describes their sound as a cross between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hippo Campus, and on this new EP entitled Ain’t it Great, I think that comparison is apt. The record hits you immediately with crisp production, hooky pop-rock vocals, and lovely horn parts.
“Willow,” the single leading up to this release acts as a thesis statement for what this band is bringing to the table. The track starts off with lightly muted guitars that crescendo into a very well-arranged horn melody full of funky, irregular hits that almost recall the late, great Roy Hargrove on D’Angelo’s Voodoo. By the time the verse comes in, the guitars have switched from their tight picking to jangly strumming of some light R&B chords. The lyrics are full of playful non sequiturs and odd figurative language that may leave you wondering what they mean, but the opening lines “I’ve seen fire and I’ve been batshit deranged” invite you to leave the words to what they are and not read to far into them. Really, the highlights of the song are when the horns are allowed to take the lead anyway. If I have any complaints it’s that the production is a little too bright and clean. I’d love to hear this song on its own term with the drums a little less compressed and everything else left as dark as the hornline.
The same things I like about “Willow” hold true in the main body of this EP. The title track begins much like “Willow” with the muted guitar intro going into a little horn section melody. Lyrically though, “Ain’t it Great” is a nostalgic song recalling sunny afternoons and 11th grade glory days. In between the verses, the trumpet and trombone both get a turn taking solos, and while I love the composition of both, I wish that the band would be let off the leash a little; each solo is a little buried in the mix when it should be front and center. The chorus gets a little funkier, but over all keeps its composure. I also dig the breakdown at the end with the arrangement opening up to let the horns play off of each other over the whoops and hollers of their band mates. If you like the Revivalists, you’ll especially like this part as well as the track as a whole.
The next tune, “What’s Your Drug” opens with some good R&B guitar work that I love, and while I do appreciate the very melodic approach on this track, the lyrics come off pretty much as you’d expect. Comparing love (or anything else at this point) to a drug is not really pushing into new territory thematically. Finally, “The Wolf” opens up with a woozy guitar solo and some muted hits on the instrument when the vocals come in. This one definitely keeps up the same aesthetic choices of the previous tracks, but I do really enjoy the lyrics on the chorus, “if I’m the wolf and you’re the moon, I’d tilt my head and sing to you.” It’s a sweet love song, and I think it plays off well.
For all of Ain’t it Great there is some nice guitar work, but the horns really steal the show. At times the production and lyrics underwhelm, but not so much to not make it an enjoyable listen. Overall, I’d say if the Q-Tip Bandits have done anything, it is defining their sound. They build up their alt-rock aesthetic, and they stick to it. If you put on this EP, don’t expect something groundbreaking or experimental because that’s not what the band is setting out for. Instead, you’ll get a light, clean rock record that is perfect for casual listening or some fun head-bobbing with friends. I’m liking this thing. 7/10