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Review: The Harlequins shine on new album, TIME

Photo Cred: Ryan Back

Coming in hot as the weather (kinda) starts to cool down, The Harlequins latest release, TIME, is one part time capsule, one part homage, one part fuzz-filled nostalgia, and all “Rock n’ Roll.” Dripping with falsetto, doused in crunchy guitar work over marching drum rhythm and twangy leads, TIME feels an appropriately on the nose title for the veteran Cincy band.

15 years into their career, TIME feels like an album out of, well, time, basking in the glory days of 60’s and 70’s rock. Mixed with airy, vibrant, and dramatic vocal harmonies and targeted, politically-minded lyricism, TIME is a sonic exercise that feels as refreshing as it does intentionally anachronistic.

“It’s one of the more eclectic albums we’ve done in a while,” Guitarist and vocalist Michael Oliva says. “And it’s a little drier, cleaner and more experimental on the audiophile side. While it still has a live feel the way our older stuff does, there are a few songs that are a bit more ambitious, production-wise. We had fun pulling some studio tricks, and definitely went a little extra in that realm.”

Conceived, recorded, and finalized over the course of 5 years - yes, this is a journey that started all the way back in the halcyon days of 2017 - TIME is an album that takes on some of the more traumatic moments of the last half decade. Concentrating on the nightmare that was the Trump years, with discussions of school shootings and the all-out fascism creeping into the public sphere, it’s a heady, heavy outing, a whole that somehow sounds much, much lighter than the sum of its parts.

From moody and psychedelic opener “Among No Flowers,” to the floating, groovy “The Cheater,” to a jaunty and propulsive title track, “Time,” the album ebbs and flows much like the tides of time itself - peaks and valleys, highlights and lowlights (though, to be honest, there isn’t a bad track in the bunch). Oliva remains circumspect, stating “If there’s anything we take from this experience,” Oliva says, “it’s perseverance. You know—just doing the damn thing. Sticking with something if you love it. And it’s the same with the band—we plan to never stop, to keep going, keep moving forward and finding new ways to reinvent ourselves.”

TIME is a hell of a way to farewell our Cincinnati summer, and despite it’s nods to the past (meaning more the political hellscape we’re still trying to find our way out of than, you know, The Past), it’s an album that can and should stand the ravages of time, holding as one of the 2022’s strongest “local” releases.

TIME is out on today on Dizzybird Records. In celebration of the album’s release, you can catch The Harlequins live at Northside Tavern on Saturday, September 3 with Tweens and Electric Citizen.