Massive pedaled-out blasts of sound tied to delicate riffs. Echo & the Bunnymen songs played by Wilco. Biscuits swimming in gravy. George Clooney’s salt and pepper beard. LP3 is a rare achievement: It doesn’t fail at being anything. It’s a collision of influences, not a contrived mixture of them. You could say this record is Tom Petty meets Spiritualized or you could say it’s Hot Snakes doing Swans, and you’d be right in both cases. It’s music from people who listen to, and love, music.
Compare the unapologetic rock swell of album-opener ‘Wales’ to the understated lyrics-first approach to the next track, ‘Separate Songs’. Clearly the same band, but exercising different ghosts on each song. That’s what LP3 provides. A spectrum broad enough for the swaying drunk at the show and the introspective headphone commuter. Wistful; hopeful; direct; coy; bombastic; pensive. It’s a human experience, or at least a French film.
The band returned to Miner Street Studio and longtime friend/collaborator Jonathan Low for the recording of LP3. It was a good choice. Every instrument is bigger on this album than on previous efforts. The vocals often puncture quiet moments to such perfect, unnerving effect that you could believe its happening in your head. The trust Low and the band has been building over the years is absolute these days and the result is a record that fills a room even when coming out of laptop speakers.
The difference between a genre band and a band that cuts its own path lies in the latter’s ability to walk away from a song without adding conventions. When bands walk the safe path the result is staying static in a genre, or worse, a scene. It’s house arrest for an artist. Restorations have gone the other way. LP3 shuns genre markers and allows every song to serve its own master. ‘Misprint’, for example, would have been a disaster in the hands of a less confident band. Instead, the track denies every potential cliché and emerges as a standout that resonates with listeners on a fundamental level. LP3 is a marriage of big sounds and meaty songwriting. Clever, sure, but strong is a better description. Pummeling and rumbling without an ounce of goonishness. Smart people going hard.