Lonely London Lad's Debut CD: Kent Manthie Review

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Reviewed by Kent Manthie at Reviewer Magazine, August, 2009.

This remarkable, two-disc, self-titled album by these hip cats calling themselves Lonely London Lad is a really cool panorama of ultra-hip anti-pop that isn't too British and not as inhibited as Americans -- for instance, the way they use irony, clever lyrics, puns and much less hung-up innuendo -- not to be too stereotypical of American bands. For example: their potential for vicious vitriol sounds, instead, like a happy, joyful pop song – think – The Style Council, Stereolab, Big Star and the like – with undertones and lyrics that have a lot of anger or some sort of political message or social critique.

There is a LOT of ground to cover on this impossibly long debut eponymous disc. One wonders how they can keep up the grooviness, the too-clever-by-half wittiness, the infectious beats and sounds that go all over the place, experimenting with different styles and diverse harmonies and melodies, but, all the time, singing with a low-key, laconic tone, but it's the music that matters most in this trippy neo-psychedelic olio of laid back grooves and the shimmering aura that travels side-by-side with the “poppiness”, i.e., the dreamy, sweet, but not saccharine lather that washes over you as you listen.

To wit, witness a foray into a kind of white reggae hybrid on "Idiot", it starts off with that Jamaican beat and a dub-esque style, but they gradually work in their own brand of rock and roll. Lonely London Lad has a "low-fi" sensibility, but with a studio polish to make it more stylish for the kids, backed with starry sky atmospherics.

I first heard from these guys about six months ago when they contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in checking out their soon-to-be-completed debut CD. Of course I said 'yeah' and then I waited and waited then got busy doing other stuff until one day about a week ago when I found, sitting in my mailbox, a package that obviously had a CD in it (or a well-disguised bomb). When I opened it, imagine my surprise when I saw that it was the long-awaited debut from Lonely London Lad. It's a 2-disc CD that has about 13 songs on each disc.

As mentioned earlier, they don't stick to any kind of cookbook-recording style. Disc One is chock-full of hypnotic, yet danceable Brit-pop with an indie/underground credibility that shows that they aren't tied to any contract with some behemoth that basically takes control away from the band and screws them financially.

The first disc starts off with the hip "Buffalo Jump"; that along with songs like "The Love" and "Celebrity" find the band just warming up, so to speak, as the whole experience gets more and more interesting as it goes along. Songs like "Robot", "Another Planet" and "Beyond Mercury" show a deeper, more ethereal style, as if the pop manque' at the beginning was only a parody that jokingly displays what not to put on your albums.

Disc two of this eponymous disc takes you down a slightly different road. Instead of the head-bobbing, toe-tapping, anti-pop that makes up disc one, they take a turn for the mellow on disc two.

Some songs that reflect this attitude of the second disc include "Mesmerized", "In the Colony" and "Beautiful Boy". They have a slowed-down but still hip and swingin' jazz-white funk vibe to it. On "Seahorse" that laid back thrill is enhanced with some intricate, frenetic guitar licks that don't overwhelm the rest of the instruments, but one can feel the groove from that axe nonetheless. The same thing is evident on "Pura Vida", a song sung in Spanish, to go along with the Latin groove that's juxtaposed in there with the hip, Brit-pop. This latter part of disc two is the surprise you get if you listen long enough and where things pick up a little and the guitar gets let loose a little further. Also, on "Toi", they really let loose and besides the grooves already mentioned, they add a catchy keyboard accompaniment that really funks it up.

This is one hell of a debut CD – I haven't heard a debut this articulate, this full of confidence and one with this amount of talent and a determination to record their own unique songs, not what some A & R guy thinks all the lemmings in radio-land want to hear. Just keep your eyes and ears open for Lonely London Lad – at least on your local college radio station (I wouldn't even want my band to be played on commercial radio, I'd feel...dirty). -KM

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