Monday, September 10, 2012
Mister Loveless - Grow Up
Sometimes you just know it's gonna be good.
Pulling a copy of Sparks, Big Beat out of the discount bin at Rasputins Records in Concord, the voice came from behind me, "Great find." Turning, I saw Rasputins employee, Rob I Miller, smiling, telling me how he'd just found the entire Sparks catalog at a thrift store. My kinda guy! The conversation quickly skyrocketed across the entire interspace of indie rock from the '80's to present and next thing you knew, a copy of Mister Loveless's new CD Grow Up was spinning in my car.
Why do I mention all this? Because so many of the guitar-based indie rock bands these days seem to think that the history of post-punk started and ended with Joy Division, when in reality, there was so much more going on back then. Knowing that Rob had records as obscure as Sparks in his collection, every fiber in my being knew that his band, Mister Loveless, would be able to deliver something bigger than the routine post-Joy Division homage.
Boy, was I ever right!
Sure, Joy Division is a great starting point for any band, but where Mister Loveless succeeds is branching out from that arm of the music tree, bringing in some biting guitar work a la The Strokes, the urgency of The Pixies and Sonic Youth, and a writing sense that is at the same time familiar yet totally their own. Big Beat was the perfect album for me to have pulled out when I met Rob, because Mister Loveless brings a big beat to their flammable rock. It's indie rock with no loss of emphasis on the "rock" while still maintaining a haunting familiarity of jangling guitars, angular structures, and organic earnestness. Sometimes, it's post-90's grunge, others it's post-80's post punk. But at all times it's distinctly theirs.
"Nineties Children" is a great introduction to the band, all amped up and charging guitars, Nick Clark's militaristic drums, and Charlie Koliha's large, looping bassline. Miller attacks his vocals with a cool schizophrenia of calm dissociation and impassioned urging. Sean Gaffney's chiming Rickenbacker soars in and swirls around the verse closings with fearless abandon while the band keeps a firm bedrock of punchy alt rock. This is a band screaming to be heard. It's a song that screams a whimper of resistance and a cry of surrender for an entire generation born after the golden age of their nation had already come and gone; children now facing the reality of a ruined economy and vacuous society hooked on iPhones and youTube, just as they're reaching adulthood. "On the edge of our tiny part of the world/ we medicate our problems with meaningless thrills/ We ain't got no focus/ we ain't got no goals/ There are no values we wish to uphold/ We need something to believe in/ us nineties children."
"Wild Summer" bounces across a jaunty, feel-good, summery guitar line, and a calm detachment. This is indie rock the way it's supposed to be; intelligent lyrics, soaring choruses, solid chops and plain old good times. With a cool post-a-Ha video to boot. That bouncing guitar line just calls me in like a welcome mat, opening the door to what I know is gonna be a good time. I dig the hooky chorus that just rides above the carpet of guitar, and Miller's rallying call to misbehave. Maybe here I detect a touch of that Sparks-ish influence, not in the true sense but in willingness to experiment and play with pop standards sense. Get the band atonal pap of Fun.'s "We Are Young" off the radio and let's get Mister Loveless on instead. This should be what's radiating out of the kids cars as summer fades to black.
I don't write about a lot of indie rock these days because so much of it sounds the same to me, then a band like Mister Loveless comes along and infuses a new sense of personality into the mix. The whole album is chockfull of dynamic changes, vibrant guitar fly-bys, and melodies that grow like weeds in my brain. And most importantly, Mister Loveless is assured and accomplished enough to pull the whole thing off.
I don't expect to find Rob working at Rasputins much longer as Mister Loveless's spark becomes a flame. I see big things coming and pretty damn fast.