September 27, 2016

Review: Lubec | Cosmic Debt

Dreamy underpop heroes Lubec return this week with a compelling sophomore sinfonietta, a collection that sees the Portland, Ore. trio table some of the widescreen optimism of its titanic 2014 full-length The Thrall to engage darker, more domestic themes. Although the relatively concise new set Cosmic Debt doesn't sprawl in the same attractively bohemian manner as The Thrall, it nonetheless presents arresting, figurative diversions into rawer emotion and almost provocatively dense production, as well as somewhat more literal diversions in the form of interstitial instrumentals that enhance the set's quasi-narrative arc. The true surprise of Cosmic Debt is not that it expands Lubec's already expansive view of guitar pop, not its beauty, sophistication or ready appeal, but rather that the whipsmart threesome does so many new things despite the record's smaller scale.

Cosmic Debt succeeds at being much more than a transitional effort, but is largely focused on difficult interpersonal transitions. It commences as if waking from a dream, with the steady, serene fade-in of "(high blood pressure)." The composition includes a pastiche of disembodied voices, including a decontextualized remark about the '90s that recalls the opening of Mogwai's classic "CODY." It's a transporting beginning, whose full potency is realized by the segue into "Clipped Wings." While that tune's title echoes somewhat the Icarus imagery from The Thrall's sparkling "Sunburn!," it also announces certain stylistic hallmarks of the album: a nearly saturated stereo field, Caroline Jackson's weighty and distorted piano, dueling and harmonized vocals, and thoughtful guitar playing. The most distinguishing element of Lubec's sonic arsenal, Ms. Jackson's booming, distorted piano, works in tandem with Matt Dressen's tasteful drumming to power the compositions, while fronter Eddie Charlton guitar playing applies more delicate textures. Dylan Wall's big, full production is most apparent in the ambient thrum that populates the space between the instruments and supplies substantial heft to Lubec's songs. Indeed, big reverbs magnify the restlessly creative trio's playing to such an extent it sounds as if it could blanket a large theater; fans can only hope Lubec's fortunes afford it that opportunity.

Lead single "Hard Potential" touts a driving rhythm and breathy vocals from Mr. Charlton, both lures difficult to resist, but the percussive bridge and cheese-grater, bending harmonics suggest the unease of Pac Northwest fellows Modest Mouse. The heretofore uncharacteristic angst on Cosmic Debt rings most true in the thrilling title track, whose serene but truncated verses give way to Charlton and Jackson confessing a seemingly generational bewilderment -- in what may be the band's most punk moment -- "I feel my cosmic debt, I don't know what it is!" Closer "Embers" -- shared with the universe by our friends at Post-Trash Monday -- stands particularly tall. While the tune deals with a particularly meaningful parting, in true Lubec fashion the song focuses on aftermath without dour mourning. Sure: the figurative and titular embers may not provide salvation, but damnation and purgatory are not Lubec's style. Here and elsewhere Cosmic Debt addresses the chasm between youthful optimism and idealism and the sometimes cold reality and necessary pragmatism that come part and parcel with maturity, but the band's resolve for positivity remains.

Cosmic Debt feels like an important step toward Lubec establishing a national profile, and certainly underscores that Lubec casually sips beers from a cooler at the vanguard of American guitar pop. Cosmic Debt will be released Sept. 30 by the Boston-based now label Disposable America; the set is available for pre-order now in a preposterously limited edition of 100 mustard yellow cassettes and will also be on offer as a digital download. An all-ages release show is slated for Saturday, Oct. 1, at Black Water in Portland, with support from fellow scenemakers Two Moons, Talkative, Dog Thieves and Radler. Stream the aforementioned "Hard Potential" via the embed below, and click through to pre-order your copy of Cosmic Debt. We are hearing chatter about an east coast tour this winter, so watch this space for all of your latest and greatest Lubec news.

Lubec: Bandcamp | Faceblorp

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1 comment:

Mario Epstein said...

first thing i've heard off this blog! cool band. cool site. i'll stay posted for sure.