It’s been a while since we last heard from Christmas Island. Back in mid-2009, the indie-rock quartet was often mentioned in the same articles as Crocodiles and Wavves as the next band to emerge from what Rolling Stone dubbed San Diego’s “seedy” lo-fi underground. While those other bands became indie-household names, Christmas Island released a great, self-titled record on a respected indie label (In The Red, once home to Jay Reatard and Vivian Girls, among others) and then, for the most part, disappeared.
Poisoner, a new six-song 12-inch, isn’t exactly the trumpet-sounding return that fans of the band have been craving; nor is it particularly groundbreaking or novel. However, it is a quaint reminder of why we liked the band in the first place: They serve up perfect, if rudimentary, blasts of DIY pop highlighted by Brian Carver’s forlorn lyrics and affected, oh-so-indie, earnest voice. “Poisoner” and “Wild Black Hair” aren’t easy-listening ballads by any means, but given time, they get stuck in your head like the best tracks from bands like Black Lips and The Clean. It ain’t pretty or shiny, but you can’t deny it.
Who knows what took these six tracks so long to make, but “View Through a Tear” might be one of the best songs they’ve ever recorded. It’s a perfectly melancholy tune complete with fantastic guitar breakdowns and lyrics that would make a country singer jealous. Even more exciting, it proves that Christmas Island is maturing both in skill and songcraft, even if it’s not at the pace we might prefer. The fact that “Tear” is followed by what could only be described as an attempt at hardcore punk (“Rat King”) is a not-so-subtle reminder that the band remains playful and unpredictable. But it remains to be seen whether this attitude will lead to another semi-hiatus or another album and (hopefully) the attention they deserve.