It takes a certain amount of presumptuousness to name your band something like The Grownup Noise, but Bostonians Paul Hansen (guitar, keys, vocals) and Paul Sankowski (bass, vocals) prove up to the presumption on their self-released This Time with Feeling. Channeling a lo-fi alterna-pop rock vibe that makes you think of what The Go-Betweens might’ve sounded like if a collegiate Gerry Rafferty had been fronting ‘em, the group presents a set of thoughtful rockers tempered with cello and the occasional sliver of accordion. It is proof positive—as if any was needed—that contemplative doesn’t have to mean sonically snoozy.
“My heart keeps beating like a jukebox stuck on The Who,” Hansen sings in the disc’s poppiest track, “Just So You Know.” If Feeling never attains the manic Moon-iness of that great band at its most raucous, it does display an affinity for ’60s-era hookiness. Whether singing an addictive celebration of beautifully losing (“Anthem for Second Place”), considering the cultural function of flowers on lyrics such as, “A flower is a strategy/Only good for I’m sorry please,” or pulling in sweet-voiced cellist Katie Franich for a slow duet, the Noise-makers remain smartly tuneful. Many of the tracks deploy the same basic strategy: open with a slow thoughtful cello-driven instrumental passage, followed by more emphatic rocking—and it works every time.
“It’s a shame to admit but we all wish that we’d die young,” the band sings in a group sing-a-long that amusingly name checks Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. And if this geezer doesn’t quite buy that particular sentiment, I do recognize the rejuvenating effect of hard-strummed electric guitar and sinuous keyboards. Grownup Noise? This aging bizness ain’t so bad, after all.