As I sit to write this review, I am currently listening to the Steve Albini demo’s from the session he did with Fugazi during their In on the Kill Taker record. The seven songs I found on this once holy grail of a demo are raw, gritty, sometimes bad, and sometimes totally awesome. It reminds me of their live show, especially around the time the album was released which was a formative time in my music listening life. In On The Kill Taker is a great record, one I often over-look. Listening to these demos is creating a very impulsive, frantic bit of energy in me at the days beginning.
I’m listening to these demos for two reasons. I’ve wanted to hear them forever and now I have them, and because I have listened to Lemuria’s Pebble everyday this week in the morning in preparation of this review and I just can’t over saturate myself with that record any longer. I need to confess something, often when I do these review, it is my first impression of the album I am offering up. They don’t all come after careful, longing listens. Generally, I know how I feel about a band and a song and an album pretty quickly. I know if it’s going to speak to me. This has been my problem with Lemuria since their debut Get Better. I don’t know what they say to me.
Lemuria used to be a pop-punk band with the occasional awkward sexuality song. However, when Get Better hit the streets in 2008 they became a bit of a mid-tempo indie rock band with a little bit of balls. The would not have been out of place in said formative listening years along side the Slant Sixes and The Superchunks of the world. Though the album was a bit less energetic than I hoped, eventually it grew on me a bit, though not as much as their early stuff grabbed me. I am having the same reaction, though slightly less, with their newest effort Pebble. Firstly, the album sounds fantastic. Studio Wizard J. Robbins has put forth one of his best efforts that I have heard in a while. He always does great work, but this album sounds utterly crystal. The guitar tones are beautiful, full and forceful without being set to overdrive or drenched in distortion. The vocals are immaculate, well recorded and sit at the top of the mix. Sheena Ozella, whose bashful, warbly, tenerous-soprano is captured perfectly.
Songwriting wise, the band has actually picked up. One of my problems with Get Better was that nothing really stood out. While the beginning of the album is a bit slow, the record picks up with the fantastic “Pleaser”, a fantastic song about a passive persona in a relationship always willing to cater to the other person. Though now, the protagonist is almost trying to be forceful by being a “hard hinter”. The guitar progression is not far from a Chunk song, a band that Lemuria has claimed loyalty to but is only now showing influence from truly. The song also contains fantastic bass lines and a refrain that reminds me of the underrated Versus when Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toupes would pair off on vocals. “Irregular” also reminds me of Versus, it’s awkward girl poetry, that is truly beautiful and sweet. The song builds into an awesome uptempo beat that’s pretty ass shaking. “Different Girls” is an awkward love song, that is catchy as hell despite drummer Alex Kerns dreadfully creepy vocals.
Perhaps that is the problem, “Bloomer” is that awkward sexuality song on the album. It presumably is about a sexual molestation/experience with an older person during one’s mid-teens. Seriously, I kind of don’t want to hear poppy songs about that stuff. Kern’s delivery of the lyrics, soft and polite just makes it that much harder to listen to. Maybe that’s why I am so objectionable to the track, and others of its ilk from the bands catalog. The band goes from cute, indie-rock geek awkward, which is endearing to totally creeped out I-feel-like-a-peeping-tom vibe. Add a slow beginning and a few filler tracks and Pebble becomes overshadowed by its flaws rather than its incredible strengths.
The internet has always been vehemently divided on this band and that discourse continues today. There hasn’t been a lot of room for people like me, straying the line. I honestly can’t make up my mind on Lemuria. Sometimes I really like what they do and parts of Pebbles make me really like this band as I did when I first heard them. But I can’t shake the bad. It just envelopes me in awkward ickiness. I don’t like feeling icky.