Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Lackloves: Cathedral Square Park

The Lackloves

Cathedral Square Park
Rainbow Quartz Records

Since powerpop is such a sugary indulgence, us fans have a sweet tooth. This new release from Milwaukee's The Lackloves is the cure! It's not a bad addiction since powerpop is melodic, guitar driven songs with good hooks and vocal harmonies that manage to retain a good, basic edge. Ex Blow Pops Mike Jarvis and Tommy Dougherty, along with new bassist Kevin Ponec have found that magic formula based on Townshend's power chords, Lennon/McCartney's catchy vocal harmonies, and some of Roger McGuinn's jangle to creat a collection of songs that are loud, catchy, and fun with quite a few surprises packed in. "Hallmark Stars (Take a Seat)," a track that's getting some airplay on indie/college stations lately, is laden with The Church styled jingle jangle guitars, some vocal harmonies that are unmistakably "Abbey Road," but the song itself reminds one most of "Tracks of My Tears" from The Miracles. "Dance With Me" takes a basic power chord approach, but has this superb bassline from Kevin Ponec that gives it a deeper feel than usually implied by powerpop. Another surprise is The Everly Brothers like track "Marlena," which has some of the best vocal harmonies one's heard in a while. As if great powerpop doesn't do enough already to give one a better rock 'n' roll edumacation, "Another Kind of Girl" rolls along with an almost country-rock style of Buddy Holly and definitely shares his romantic optimism but contrasts it with the fear of experience in lyrics like "But she's gonna take my time, And make me lose my mind, Oh God I wonder how it feels inside (How's the weather inside?), But there's another girl I see, In your eyes."

"Space Age Romeo" has a faster, louder tempo like an arrow straight to the heart of a Jam fan, but the prominence of the theramin gives it a tripped out, psyhedelic burst that might hint at the creation of a new genre, psychedelic punk, while "Summer Rain" takes it inspiration from a more faithful rendition in the style of The Byrds "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better," only the vocal pitch is "sweet." One doesn't sense it at first, but a few listens to it and one senses a stronger Cathedral Square Park lean not only to Byrdslike guitar, but beats that are unmistakably country influenced, which is something that The Byrds used throught their career more than anyone else. Although Roger McGuinn's guitar style or sound is one of the most familiar and appreciated cliches for '60s garage inspired rock 'n' roll, The Lackloves country tinged approach is a hint of true genius because they don't just pull it off, but like The Byrds, they're among the very few who can do it well. The result is that Cathedral Square Park departs from the British Invasion standard by adding an earlier roots rock approach that's authentic.

Cathedral Square Park's opening track "On My Way" is a sure standout. The guitar hooks are just addictive! The hook is another riff stolen (with highest regard, of course) from The Byrds, but the melody is straight out of The Soft Boys "The Queen of Eyes," which cause me to stop the track midway through and listen to what felt was the inspiration for "On My Way." Strange as it may seem, it's a great compliment if a band gets under one's skin and itches enough to make you want to hear one of your favorite songs. However, the second approach to "On My Way" caught a few cool surprises like a furious drummed buildup from Tommy Dougherty and a "swirling" chorus that gives the song a bit more chops. Unfortunately, it's a great illustration of why great bands like The Lackloves don't have broader appeal. Unlike what usually sells, good powerpop is dense musically. It's catchy and sweet, but has a strong basis in actually being good music. Therefore, the approach is similar to powerpop's insprirations like The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, and other British Invasion bands. The idea is to make great music and not make hits. The substance is greater than the taste. Most people don't care about the subtleties or the ingredients, but want the instant gratification. By coincidence, one really can allude to eating a blow pop, which is the name of Mike and Tommy's first band: Do you savor the candy shell or bite straight into the bubble gum center? I'd prefer to enjoy it all, but most ignore everything but the bubblegum. Then again, those people don't think about their music, either.

The Lackloves are a true force of powerpop sugar, but Cathedral Square Park and its sweetness lies in a great combination of different ingredients that mix the familiar with newer, subtle flavors. I guess that makes it gourmet food, but something that's so carefully thought out and well prepared is much more appreciated. Therefore, The Lackloves will make your mouth water a lot more and will leave the powerpop sweet tooth much more satisfied. if one buys a copy of Cathedral Square Park, they'll get their addiction to powerpop satiated regularly with a purer quality fix!

Songs from Cathedral Square Park have not been made or recorded into video form yet, but "The Radio's Mine" from their 2004 release The Beat & The Time is a great listen with its own surprises.

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