Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Love Me Nots Get Groovy on Upsidedown Insideout!

The Love Me Nots

Upsidedown Insideout

I've always been a big fan of The Love Me Nots. Great, loud, surfy guitars, steady, pounding beats, and a female lead vocalist who sizzles with every word. On top of that, every song is memorable and steeped in surf, garage, and Detroit R&B, but they have their own mod image that's retro and still all ther own. This band has always been an incredible package. They've more or less mastered the whole garage thing by digging up those influences that create garage rock and playing them so well with their own, unforgettable mark. The problem is, how does one top that? One word: Change. Let's face it. Garage rock is enduring and once one becomes a fan, they steep up all the influences that created it and added to it, but the mix of Northern Soul, Motown, R&B, fuzz, surf, '60s punk, and early psychedelia can sound a little redundant even to the most broad minded and music knowledgeable junkie, so it gets harder to create something new and different out of that. In comes the third release from Phoenix's The Love Me Nots. In form of familiarity with the new, long time producer and collaborator Jim Diamond worked the keys and added some extra playing, but instead of going to Ghetto Recorders for laying down the tracks, Jim flew out to Phoenix and sat in with them at Flying Blanket Recording for the new album. New drummer Bob Hoag also took on the role of pre-mastering.

The red hot cover instantly suggests a new direction for the band. Although the simplicity of their other album covers are there, the upside down silhouette of go-go boots with a red background indicate something a little bit modern in reminding one of the opening credits for the popular, mid century period TV program "Madmen." The first track, "Do What You Do" is equal parts guitar and Farfisa sharing lead and melody, but Michael Johny Walker plays longer, more "lead guitar" type riffs that suggest a more hard rock than surf base and Nicole's vocals have a slight background at times that suggest The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Still incredibly cool '60s mod, but maybe with a little bit of a broader appealing twist. The following "Karen (Get Yourself Out)" is a manifesto for vintage organ with guitar taking a more melodic role, although there's still a few solos that expand the appeal outside of the garage rock world. The song is also a crowd pleaser that's known to really get the crowd going at their shows. Perhaps the biggest shock is "You Don't Know a Thing About Me" with a sweet acoustic guitar base, super heavy keys, and electric that combines into something straight out of The Paisley Undergound movement, only bluesier.

Nicole Laurenne's power and presence have always taken front and center, but Kyle Rose Stokes' added vocals on songs like "You're Bringing Me Down" and "He's What I Want" give a stronger gender balance. Upsidedown Insideout overall has a greater melodic approach than their earlier work, but still has heavy garage and speedy beats such as "Take Pity." It also has songs like "The Kinda Love I Got" that are more of a straightforward, super charged guitar pop that pushes towards broader appealing rock. "Fire and Pride" is definitely soul in its sweet, sad melody punctuated by deeper, bluesy desperation and surf riffs, but brings to mind another new theme that runs throughout the whole album: No matter the volume or tempo of the songs, all of them have this incredible grooviness, even with my personal surprise for the lyric "I don't like paisley" on "Not That Kind of Girl" still rocks my world.

I've listened to this album multiple times over the past 6 months or so, appreciating its new sound while still trying to grapple with the fact that it has a new pop appeal while still steeped in everything that makes The LMNs a great band: Great, loud guitars, sweeping organ, an intense beat, and a vocal delivery that's tough, sexy, and desperate at times. Perhaps what's really telling about Upsidedown Insideout is that it never gets too familiar. Even with repeated plays, one hears something new or appreciates something a little more with each listen, such as Nicole's Farfisa solo on "Rosie" that floods one's ears, or the almost classic blues sound of "Undone."

Upsidedown Insideout is The Love Me Nots doing the kind of rock that they're known for. It's strong, loud, and has that sense of heat that they're known for, but it's definitely a new direction for them. It's musically recognizable, but full of surprises. Their previous releases are too and incredibly well done, but this release offers more melody and grooves that embellish their simplicity and break a lot of new ground. It's more than a great effort. It's an incredible album that one never gets tired of hearing.

Upsidedown Insideout is available from numerous outlets including Atomic A Go Go and Get Hip Recordings.