Cola, Montreal’s most jagged post punk trio, shimmy back in with their new album The Gloss – a spacious, well structured, occasionally gnarly follow up to 2022’s debut Deep In View.

The band’s sound can generally be described as angular with a focus that seems to oscillate anywhere from complete-balls-on-accurate to blowing in the breeze, giving them a charm that’s hard to categorise. Kinda serious but with a smirk.

Opening track ‘Tracing Hallmarks’ sets their stall out, vocalist / guitarist Tim Darcy’s voice pushing into the spaces left by such skeletal arrangements – think The Strokes but with the sensibilities of Tom Verlaine and you’ll get the idea. Confident too, with little “Yeah / That’s right” asides.

And that’s the thing – when their mojo-meter is full, Cola have a canny knack of strangling the discordant into easy submission, stabbing out crystalline guitar on a layer of meandering bass and urgent beats. Album closer ‘Bitter Melon’ being the perfect example of their sparse but sparkling sound, chiming along its 6 minute duration and settling into a subterranean Television groove. The fact this marks the endpoint of the album says plenty about the strength of their ideas.

Saying that, the ball is fumbled slightly in the middle ground. ‘Down To Size’ and ‘Reprise’ are grasping for a hook that seems just out of reach, and last year’s single ‘Keys Down If You Stay’ seems undetermined, straying too far into sharp-cornered outcrops, arresting momentum.

Cola’s musical approach sometimes seems hell-bent on denying the listener an easy pay off, which has positives and negatives. It can dull the expectation level after a while but the big wins on The Gloss¬†are made all the more enjoyable for it.

Impetus is regained elsewhere. Album highlight ‘Bell Wheel’ cranks up the edginess, channelling the exasperated vocal of Squid’s Ollie Judge, growing from skittishness into a tight groove punctuated by some sterling work on the bell of drummer Evan Cartwright’s ride cymbal. ‘Nice Try’ is as easygoing as these guys get, the soundtrack to a lazy afternoon in the sun.

It’s obvious Cola have got hold of something fascinating in their sound. It will be interesting to see if they can learn to harness it fully. Keep adding The Gloss and they just might.