What's next? Hitting it big right out of the box
Few rock bands, even the ones we regard as “the greats,” hit on a signature sound right out of the starting gate. Paul McCartney’s “I’ve Just Seen a Face” started off the Beatles first LP, Please Please Me, with a bang, but a lot of the rest of the album is covers, and the remaining originals are classics more for being from “The Beatles” than for their true artistic merit. Radiohead’s first, Pablo Honey, was made up of fine, if not too inspired, rock songs, hardly hinting at the guitar masterpieces that awaited the band just one album away.
Lying In States have just one soon-to-be-released EP under their belt, but already they have, by talent and probably a little luck, stumbled on to one of the most original (while still being guitar-based) sounds I have heard in a while. Part David Bowie, part late 70’s Pink Floyd, with shades of early DC group Girls Against Boys (pioneers and basically the only practitioners of Sex-Rock), Lying In State’s The Bewildered Herd EP (Harmless) sounds like the calculated yet joyous work of artists already at the top of their game.
Lead singer Ben Clarke has Floyd’s David Gilmour’s vocal work down cold, instantly providing a bridge between the past and the 20-minutes-into-the-future work of the rest of the band. The guitar work is the domain of Clarke and Fergus Kaiser; meaty guitar riffs in one ear are frequently textured by complementary lead in the other.
Radiohead in their guitar prime might be a good point of comparison, but to me their material sounds more busy and sonically complicated than Radiohead’s ever was in their pre- OK Computer days. Keyboardist Jeremy Ohmes’ always slightly distorted keyboard lines add texture to the group’s already hectic intellectuals-on-acid mix– a nice 70’s Bowie-ish change-up from the usual guitar-bass-drums layout of 95 percent of modern bands.
One can make quite a list of great bands that only show their true greatness a few albums down the line; the converse list, that of great bands who hit their sound right out of the gate, is a lot shorter. A band like the immortal Zepplin would probably be on it, but I believe the problem is that bands with a fantastic first album usually don’t produce much great stuff after that first big hit. If you’re in a group that writes timeless masterpieces right off the bat, what the hell are you going to do on your second album? Retreads of the first? Not the makings of a classic.
Lying In States have produced a fantastic debut EP (hell, at 41 minutes, its longer than a Weezer album), and along with the rush you get from listening to really great music, I’m a little worried for the group. To me, their first-time virtuosity begs the question: Where will they go from here?
Lying In States w/ Carisonics and Bottom of the Hudson at Tokyo Rose, September 24. $5, 10pm