::The Lost Patrol::



cd reviews - August 3, 2013
Björn Werkmann

The Piermont, New York-based trio The Lost Patrol is back with their fourth album, the adamantly neon-colored Driven, released in April 2013 and available to purchase and listen to in full at Bandcamp. Their discography is loaded with explicit nods to – and hidden scents of – various Space-Age flavors, and while Driven is perfectly earthen, with all of its four figurative wheels touching the ground all the time, the overwhelming majority of the 12 unique tracks is exactly that: overwhelming. Rarely did I come across compositions that are glowing in such saturated, powerful colors. Everything is secondary to and enslaved by the gorgeous euphony of the melodies. The band takes tidbits of Space-Age, Exotica, Surf, even Shoegaze and creates a partly dreamy, partly lively cocktail whose definite genre categorization escapes any prerogative of interpretation. I try nonetheless, but more about this later. As usual, harmonies come with a price: this album is basically a straightened out work of exterior perfection, no eclectic or labyrinthine guitar solo ever sees the light of day in these ever-bubbling phantasmagorias. The band setup features the talent of vocalist Mollie Israel who also plays the Hammond organ, guitar, stylophone and is also right at home behind a drum kit, whereas Michael Williams plays the acoustic guitar and Stephen Masucci is at the helm of the bass guitar, his 1967 Mosrite beauty nicknamed "Cupcake," the Moog synthesizer and his keyboards. When the band’s promoter Ed Colavito asked me to write a review, I agreed almost immediately, as I was hooked by the very first track already. And it does not go downhill for the depicted sports car of the front cover from this point onwards, that’s for sure. As lame as the old advice “fasten your seat belts” sounds in a music review, it is astute here. So off we drive.

Literally zero time is wasted: euphony hits the listener like a car. Hehe. Enormously dreamy and moist guitar chords kick off the superbly nostalgic Dream Pop scenery of Spinning. Beyond the 6/8 rhythms, Michael Williams' acoustic guitar rivers are in constant fluxion, all the while Mollie Israel sings about dizzy states and spinning heads. And rightfully so: this opener is curiously melancholic yet supercharged with freedom, euphoria and an almost audacious insouciance. Blurred backing choirs of Israel's tripled vocals feel like ethereal seraphims oozing out of a wraithlike fissure and round off the magnanimous magnitude of this anthem. No Surf coolness is involved yet, this is all about bliss. All Tomorrow’s Promises is an entirely different critter as The Lost Patrol revs up the impetus of the punchy drums and shuttles between crunchy golden-shimmering legato chords and a crisp shrapnel of tones in major. A scent of yearning is much more noticeable here, Mollie Israel’s vocals are veiled in hall effects, brazen but amicable electric guitar coils deliver a sharper edge and fit well with the drum-related energy. Chance Of Rain then finally builds an archetypical sunset-inducing wonkiness of Surf Rock, but injects these glistening placentas in cascading downbeat constructions which are then literally elevated by Stephen Masucci’s theremin-oid Space-Age laser whistles. The polyphony of the vocals strangely enough adds a grey and barren murkiness to the scenery that lives up to the title before it constantly clashes with the guitar-fueled sunbursts. In search of coining a fitting genre term, this tune could be Dream Surf, as it takes the old-fashioned Surf Pop into the current future. If that makes any sense.

Little Black Kitten mediates between Crime Jazz flavors which are erected with the help of both frizzling cymbals hued in a shady atmosphere and according transmutations by the means of guitars in tandem with heavily oscillating Moog concoctions. Rapture and glee are farther away than ever, and even though this tune is well-groomed and keeps the pace, its threnody successfully covers the hidden undertones of joy. It stands in stark contrast to the protuberances of happiness that are fittingly placed like speed bumps all over the album and is an almost contemplative piece. Speaking of contemplation: See You In Hell neglects this pondering vis its gargantuan gunmetal globs of electric guitars and its constant interplay between nihilistic kamikaze chords and sun-charged stardust mirages whose chords are enormously captivating. The lyrics are eminently rough yet bucolic ("You wanna play, you might get beat, and if you wanna win, you better learn to cheat"), the listener is not only torn between the dichotomy, but faces the danger of being torn apart if all goes according to the band’s evil plan. Despite the slower tempo, power is advected into each riff, making See You In Hell a glowing, blazingly colorful brute of a copper-paved highway hymn. The following Burn Me Down seems like a pandemonic addendum to the fiery predecessor, but is more of a – please don’t hate me for the next term – bubblegum serenade that meanders between sepia serpentines and elysian elements. The three-note main riff of this downtempo song is superbly catchy, encapsulating aspiration and exhilaration in equal parts. Mollie Israel’s performance of the eponymous chorus line is transcendental and powerfully fragile, a duality made of incompatible ingredients. Another superb hit.

There And Back presents two new sides in the given intrinsic spectrum: Rockabilly rhythms with a prominent acoustic guitar aorta on the one hand, and wordless vocals on the other. The rural bonfire afterglow only lasts for a few seconds and is soon pushed to the background by various stringed textures; Mollie Israel’s haunting chants orbit through the fast-paced mélange, and even though the tempo is fast and pulsating, the tone sequences in minor contrast with the potentially uplifting riverbed. Tell Me resides in the same, albeit slower spectrum. Michael Williams’ acoustic device underpins the guitarscape, Israel's vocals are particularly angelic and astutely amplified by Stephen Masucci’s carefully warped and rising synth glissando. Even when the band comes up with slower songs, the harmonies expectorate benignancy and contentment.

While the spacey Invincible surprises with a strong faux-British 80’s sound à la Trevor Horn and unleashes raucous-metallic bass guitars, enigmatic synthesized glitters plus dark matter pads as well as gorgeous Hammond organ streams in adjacency to a classic drum kit goodness, Just Go takes the listener and forcefully throws him into a Honky Tonk bar of the pre-Exotica mid–50’s via a cleverly applied filter technique that drapes the designedly muffled performance like a veil. The piano is played by guest musician Rob Schwimmer and invokes that stereotypical jazzy jumpiness. The coruscating glitziness of the hi-hats is tuned down, the vocals sound blurry as well. As de trop this fleeting visit to a past decade is, it is a fitting inclusion on Driven when such bars and saloons were easily reachable by cars and built around the corner throughout the States. Those were the booze days of yore. During In Too Deep, the trio returns to the multilayered warmth and reunites the acoustic guitar splinters with their electric brethren and cherubic synth accompaniments in order to unchain quick combos of enchanting harmonies, creating another Pop hymn par excellence. The closer is called Disguise and remains the slowest of all tunes. Its physiognomy is based on a granular, almost ecclesiastic Hammond organ whose flamboyant bursts cut incisively through the air, with their gaseous reverberation illuminating – and covering – the ensuing space. Despite the occasional occurrence of lachrymosity that is needed to imply the closure of the album, this tune is not chintzy at all, but a tad more melodramatic. The joyride has come to an end, but our lives have not, so it is worth to remain seated in that car as long as possible.

The Lost Patrol’s Driven is not an album of quiet tones or placid alcoves. Everything gleams and bursts at the seams, even the comparatively quiescent sections where the sound waves of the slapped guitars echo out into the distance. Its title suggests a great compatibility to car-based sound systems, and sure enough does the saturated verve suggest just that. Notwithstanding these allusions, Driven is no clichéd album that is solely reducible to slow cruising sessions through metropolitan areas and breakneck highway jaunts. The band embraces life and its iridescent riffs in all its glory, but spices these humongous harmonies with a voluminous grandiloquence that is, to use another car simile, more akin to a monster truck than a Ferrari. The midtempo range is where the band peaks time and again, and these tempos are then mercilessly wadded and bolstered with steel, thus making the omnipresent dreaminess a possibly uncomfortable one if the listener falls prey to the otherwise hammock-friendly compositions, for they are vulpine and polymorphous. Songs like the opener Spinning, Burn Me Down and There And Back explode in cavalcades of colors and are unbelievably good-natured, hyper-histrionic and spawn multitudes of other hyphenated adjectives. See You In Hell meanwhile draws from thunderous guitar riffs and lets them crash with their beautifully shimmering contrapuntal foils. Surf, Exotica and Space-Age are only traces and vehicles (!) with which the destination of mesmeric majesty is reached. This is polished Dream Pop, a term I do not use out of the blue, for the many hall effects and echoes suggest such a categorization. Driven is available on CD and a download version. Highly recommended to those listeners who want to bathe or rather submerge into waves of euphoria and do not mind the ubiquitously vivacious pigmentation.





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