“Do I make you more interesting?” asks The Leave Me Alones lead vocalist Hayley on the Oakland band’s new EP, Be Alone.
This line, from opening track “Bad News,” is a testament to the strength of this EP’s lyrics, which pack their punch not with poeticism so much as the bracing directness that garage rock is known for. The Leave Me Alones have honed that sound over a collection of demos released in 2018 and another EP, Race to the Bottom, released in February of this year. Taken together, the band embraces the pithiness factor that attracts people to the genre; that nose-to-nose attitude that lounges between the rage of punk and the obliqueness of indie. That is, if you can make out the lyrics in the first place.
The vocals on Be Alone are imprecise — they have a 90’s flair, each word sliding into the next. So rarely does any line end on a bite that sometimes choruses and verses tangle into each other like strands of windblown hair. This is quite apparent on track two, “Choices,” where Hayley sings lines like “How can you watch my back/if you wont take your eyes off yours” in an almost-warble. This doesn’t seem particularly accidental, per say — it’s more so that The Leave Me Alones clearly don’t have a lot of desire to slip into the more polished garage/indie rock that has become popular, especially in Europe (Catfish and the Bottlemen, early The 1975, the US’s White Reaper).
The vocals and the instrumentals can occasionally feel a bit disjointed, like band members separately rehearsing their contributions in the same space before coming together to see if it works; inevitably some of it does, and some of it doesn’t. But this roughness smooths down after a few listens, and the heart of the project comes out, especially on the jangly mid-tempo title track, where Hayley and fellow band members Marc (guitar), Damian (Bass), and Dasha (drums), let the vocal inflections support the emotion of the song rather than hiding it.
“You’re way out of anything,” Hayley sings. “[That’s] exactly what I do too/I can’t be mad at you.” There it is, so simple: the EP is like a chastising letter to someone, but one where you constantly backtrack and doubt your own anger, because you know on some level that you were the one to turn the fan on before the shit flew at it.
This rock with a dash of soul-lite treatment seems to be a good landing place for the Leave Me Alones. It can be heard in the next track as well, which wisely waits until the halfway point to unleash a killer fuzzy guitar riff and this lyric: “It’s my turn to fuck someone over.” A fun line indeed, but one that could have come across as a little posturing if they had used it through the whole song.
Still, I wonder what would come from the band if they fully leaned into the rage, or fully into the self-effacement. As it stands now, the EP gives of a sense of uncertainty. “Either way I wanna punish you,” Hayley sings on “Be Alone.” But it doesn’t sound like a promise.