Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lemuria - 'Pebble'

Lemuria’s new album Pebble is strangely compelling. I can’t get comfortable with it, but as soon as I turn it off, half the album gets stuck in my head. The Buffalo indie rock group masquerading as a punk band certainly circumvented expectations on Get Better, but here they truly emerge as an altogether new band.

It shouldn’t be so surprising though. Lemuria stopped writing in the Superchunk-meets-Discount vein a couple of years ago, as Get Better marked their transition into softer indie fare. But Pebble straight up rewrites their sound. I like it a lot, but just about everything that drew me to Lemuria – Sheena Ozzella’s vocals and raw guitar, the overtly sexual lyrics that bordered on Prince levels, the pop-punk fringes – is gone. Well sort of.

Here’s what the band does differently this time out: Ozzella and drummer Alex Kerns share the mic more, so much so that Kerns takes over the album during the second half. The lyrics are less sexy and more bitter, although maybe it’s best that Lemuria avoids topping songs like “The Origamists” (Sample lyric: “Today we never put on our clothes / We tried to set a record / We came close”). Oddly enough, the instrument that stands out most is the bass, which is the one thing played by a session guy, Kyle Paton. Still, J. Robbins’ production provides a healthy, hearty heaping of low end.

The music oscillates between indie and slight post-punk. I’ve always enjoyed Lemuria’s lyrics because of the angles they take. New tune “Different Girls” is about staying faithful on the road, which is an old rock ‘n’ roll trope. But Kerns turns out a sarcastic series of lines that should confirm all of his lover’s fears before Ozzella reminds “It’s in your imagination of course.” It’s kind of douchey, kind of catchy. Other tunes switch up gender roles, like “Bloomer,” while others offer up great lines, like the put down “Gravity will destroy,” directed at a homewrecker, from “Gravity.”

Even without prior awareness of Lemuria’s songs, it takes a while to adapt to Pebble. It’s really catchy, but it makes you dig to find the hooks. A lot of people in the punk community have already written it off as boring, but these songs shine. Yeah, Lemuria is a different band, but they’re still a good one.

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