There are hundreds of stories about musicians struggling to make ends meet. Whether selling off cars to gather up enough money for a demo, taking out additional mortgages for that cross country “make it or break it” tour, or flipping burgers at all three burger joints across from the suburban strip mall. However, for a trio of friends from Greensboro, North Carolina, this sacrifice has been taken to a whole new level. The band sold off Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Jawas, Millenium Falcons, and even Yoda to get this five-song EP off the ground. Yes, an entire Star Wars collection! Regardless of this, the trio of Chris Jackson, Jason Kennedy, and Lonnie Richardson is intent on making it happen. Produced by Jerry Kee, who has worked with the Connells, Kingsbury Manx, and Superchunk, this debut disc is a nice blend of indie pop and rock. But perhaps its greatest asset is some of the songs have all the finishing touches along the lines of Coldplay, Radiohead, and new British pop act Budapest.
Starting things off with “Autobahn”, the press release states: “a song echoing the steady and determined pace of a frantic tourist released upon the fabled German motorway.” Well, how one determines what route, road or highway the singer is on by the arrangement is anyone’s guess. A mid-tempo arrangement that sounds as weary as it does fresh, the group come off quite a bit like an early R.E.M., particularly in the Stipe-like delivery and range. The backing harmonies are subtle enough to carry the tune, but the bridge and its buildup lose steam. If the guitars were more pronounced and dominant, Lookwell would look, well, like the Cure. Coming to a dead stop before having an atmospheric effect, the tune is a decent start. “Painted Seats” starts off with the lyrics, “At the wake you wore socks / Was it last year you were off”. A unique opening, to be sure. Sounding downtrodden and a tad bland, the song ambles along while quickly losing the plot. The middle portion is decent but quickly reverts to the weak format.
Perhaps the best track, although given there are only five, is the urgent roots-rock of “Lasting Favorite”. Coming off a cross between R.E.M. and Canadian band the Tragically Hip in its heyday, the song takes a lot of chances in its winding nature. The lyrics aren’t exactly memorable, but the tune has enough punch in it courtesy of Jason Blaustien’s drumming style. There’s a definite homage to a ‘60s psychedelic sound working in the background, making it more accessible. If there’s one drawback, it’s the inane conclusion that cannot possibly fade quickly enough. “The Ghost and The Courthouse” ensues with a melodic indie pop resembling the Connells circa Ring. The rhythm section evokes a dreamy pop idea before a certain line is repeated a tad too much. It gets bolder as well as it continues, making it possibly a great live track, one that could be expanded upon.
The EP ends with “Pencil Me In”, a very solid tune that the listener knows will be brilliantly and deliberately layered. An electric guitar is joined by a nice and light drumbeat. Unfortunately a cheesy, thick and brash keyboard enters the fray. It’s removed shortly thereafter but the song loses some of its oomph. The song takes a gentle but sweet turn as the drums mesh perfectly with electric guitar before heading back to the beginning for the homestretch. It’s a fitting conclusion to a quite good first impression. May the force be with them.