When you think of Southern California and rock, what comes to mind? Doomy, nervous art rock probably isn’t first on the list. Yet that triumvirate of classic moody British alternative bands—Depeche Mode, the Cure, and The Smiths—first gained a foothold on America in the land where it never rains (well, most of the time). So maybe it’s not such a big surprise that San Diego’s Lowcloudcover owes more to Bauhaus and the Cure than the Eagles or Green Day.
I Took a Second Too Long is full of continuously morphing tempos and guitar effects, held together by tense, jagged rhythms. The title is apt; throughout, the music evokes a moment where you realize that you shouldn’t have tried to gather your personal effects when the house caught fire, and now you’re being enveloped in flames. Sound intense? It is. But at times it’s also mesmerizing.
“Menace” is an urgent anthem that sums up this band in a single song. After some sculpted feedback, it bursts into rhythm and spindly guitars. Dario Izarraras has hit upon the one bassline that makes you want to squirm and dance simultaneously. It all makes perfect sense when vocalist/guitarist Greg Russell starts singing lines like, “When I’m dancing I get up / And take it right between the eyes” with suicidal abandon. You get the sense that the song is happening to him, and the desperation is intoxicating.
“Where Did You Go” gives the James Bond melody a dark twist before giving way to a surprisingly poppy chorus and a gorgeous, dreamy coda right out of shoegazer heaven. On this and the fast/slow, loud/soft, multi-movement epic “The Last Lemming”, you can hear where the My Bloody Valentine comparisons fit in. But did MBV ever use a melodica for one of its extended space jams?
I Took a Second Too Long loses steam in its final third. “Battle Scars” is a scorching uptempo number that is almost dance music, but never hits a focal point. “Give Me Mine” starts as whisper and ends with wailing guitars, covering all the bases in search of a nerve.
With so much going on, the DIY production is at odds with the songs; Jay Richardson’s closely-mic’d, metallic drums sound especially out of place. On the whole, I Took a Second Too Long shows Lowcloudcover to be harrowing and promising. For some people, at least, all that sun takes its toll.