EP Review: The Loud Bangs – Highway Safety Films

The Loud Bangs are an alternative rock quartet based in Los Angeles, USA. Formed in 2021 around a mutual love of shoegaze, ’90s alternative and German club music, they’ve already released two 5-track EPs. Yet, It’s through their recently released third that they’ve hit my radar. It’s called Highway Safety Films.

By Graeme Smith

Feature Photo by Kim Withers

The EP opens with Speed Enforced by Aircraft. It’s a strong opener, taking something so mundane as traffic safety and elevating it to something beautiful. A looping melody lays the groundwork while sparse piano and vocal samples move the story forward. The band have been called “the Pink Floyd of shoegaze” and the comparison is justified here. The Loud Bangs are creating the same kind of challenging sound the prog legends did.

Track two is Archie’s Enemies. It has a similarly otherworldly vibe that is anchored by a steady drumbeat and guitar combination. There’s a touch the sinister about it too. It wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack of an instalment of Silent Hill. The Loud Bangs have a way of infusing their music with a strong sense of atmosphere. It’s wonderful stuff.

Cars Kill takes things in a rockier direction. With driving riffs and energetic drums, there’s a sense of danger and an undercurrent of malice. It’s tempered somewhat by the delicate vocals, practically whispered beneath the noise. It’s the closest we get to lyrics from The Loud Bangs, who feel they’re not entirely necessary to convey emotion. On the evidence so far, I’d have to agree.

It’s followed by Oranges. Starting with more vocal samples, it returns to the experimentative nature of Speed Enforced By Aircraft, while the guitar keeps things rocky, with an industrial edge. A slow instrumental build takes on a very different feel when the quiet vocals come in and there is a sense of internal conflict, a desire to escape something oppressive. The track is full of elements that feel like they shouldn’t work together but completely do. It’s an EP highlight.

The final track is Emergency Surgery. At seven and a half minutes long, it’s ambitious, but there isn’t a wasted minute in it. It sets aside the rock of the last two tracks for something closer to electronic pop. Bright synths set the early running, paired with dreamy vocals, creating a sense of bliss that reminded me of some of Crystal Castles’ calmer numbers. It’s a track that doesn’t stand still though and by the time you reach the end you look back and wonder just how you got there.

Highway Safety Films is, in a word, stunning. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to something that’s drawn on such a wide range of influences in order to make something that is coherent and unique. If The Loud Bangs keep putting out music this prolifically and of this high quality, they’ll be on their way to being cult superstars. You can listen to their full EP below.