How Do You Love?
I got into The Regrettes pretty soon after their first record, Feel Your Feelings Fool!, dropped in 2017. Their blend of alt pop/60s surf/punk/SoCal/straightforward feminism hit exactly in my sweet spot. It was almost like finding that dog. again; a little retro, a little rough, sweet backing vocals, and a front woman who could wield strength and ennui with equal aplomb. I beat the living fuck out of that record, and still occasionally do. Their follow-up EP Attention Seeker added a bit of polish and slick production sheen over the top of their sound in a positive way – it has really my favorite song of theirs, “Red Light”, and an excellent cover of “Teenager In Love” – while showing they could move into different sounds without losing their character.
And so now, How Do You Love?.
Ostensibly telling a broad-stroke story about the arc of a relationship from first spark to crash and burn, How Do You Love? sees frontwoman/songwriter Lydia Night dropping a lot of Feel’s pointed calls against the patriarchy in favor of that tried-and-true pop source material: love. What she gets dead bang is the electric jolt of excitement when you realize that your crush is also crushing on you; the opening one-two punch of “California Friends” and “I Dare You” are soaked with that head-over-heels rush of finding out you’re falling and it makes for a giddy ride. What isn’t quite so adroit are the songs about endings, which make up most of the back half of the record. Lyrically, songs like “Dead Wrong”, “Here You Go”, and especially “The Game”, fall a bit flat; too many platitudes, fewer of Night’s excellent turns of phrase. Musically, though, they’re still catchy as hell – especially the cheerleader chant chorus of “Go Love You”.
Sonically, HDYL? wears its influences on its sleeve. “California Friends” ends on a riff that echoes – in a poppy way – something Tom Morello might do (they have been known to cover “Killing in the Name” live); “Dress Up”’s guitar refrain is a nod to Steve Stevens; “Pumpkin” might have started life as a 1950s dead girlfriend song; the main riff of “I Dare You” is so close to the Strokes’ “Last Night” that Julian Casablancas gets a writing credit. You can also find some Rick Springfield, a hint of the Clash, the Knack, and a couple jangle-punk tracks. While you could call it derivative if you were in a foul mood, the exuberance with which the band embraces its raw pop center – perfect backing vocals and all – forgives the spaces where they play a little too close to their heroes. There isn’t as much in the way of guitar heroics from Genessa Gariano as I would have expected from the seeds of The Regrettes’ previous outings, but the straighter pop presentation doesn’t need it as much as their earlier, chunkier material.
Overall, How Do You Love? is a rock solid record, assuming you like anything resembling guitar pop. It stalls a little in its middle third (I straight up just don’t like “Pumpkin”) but has more than enough around it to make up for it. This album – and the tour supporting it, plus some high-profile showings at Coachella and Reading – feels primed to launch The Regrettes into a legit big-draw national act. Go see them now while they’re still in clubs.
Pros – Catchy, clever, complete earworm alt-pop. Even the deep cuts will get into your head.
Cons – The center of it drags a bit, a few of the lyrics could be annoyingly trite if you spend too much time on them.
Bottom Line – Put it in your rotation, go fall in love.