[9 February 2010]
Locksley probably kick ass live. The drums tumble and crash, keeping things moving at a respectable clip even on the less loud or urgent material. The guitars have some bite to them, tough enough to provide a little grit, but not so grimy as to lose the sweetness of that Beatles-y augmented chord on the turnaround. The vocals are bellowed with passion but stay on pitch, while backup singers “ooh” in all the right places.
Here’s the thing, though. Reread the paragraph above, and think about it for a moment. You’ll come away with more or less the same experience as having actually listened to the album. Even if there isn’t another band out there that sounds exactly like Locksley, they’re working with such familiar components that they can’t help but feel generic. Without some distinctive element to their sound—more specific lyrics, stronger melodies, something, anything—Be in Love leaves the listener with only the feeling of having heard rock ‘n’ roll, rather than bestowing any lasting impressions.
That’s why Locksley seems particularly suited to live performance. As the music is happening, it’s fun, and when it’s over, it’s over. But on record, after the last song fades, you’re just left with an album you can barely remember, rather than the actual experience of seeing a rock ‘n’ roll band in a club. This album’s pleasures are so ephemeral and fleeting that, if it were any less buoyant or accessible, I’d be tempted to declare it some kind of meta commentary on impermanence.
Some songs emerge with repeated listens. Single “Darling, It’s True” has a skipping beat and a chorus hook memorable and indelible enough to make it worthwhile. The two songs written by lead guitarist Kai Kennedy (“Days of Youth” and “Away from Here”) have enough interesting production touches and chord voicings to make them stand out from the other tunes, even if they’re not substantially different at their core. “The Whip” is a bit more repetitive than the rest of the record, and the “woah”-based chorus less inspired, but it’s hardly unendurable. The truth is, though, that if you like any of these songs, you’ll probably like all of them.
An album like Be in Love poses an interesting journalistic challenge: how do you grade music that’s barely even there? You, dear reader, would do well to treat the rating below as a general guideline. If you’re after an immersive musical experience, rich with layers of sonic detail and meticulous, poetic lyrics—if you’re the sort who’d actually want a metamusical concept album about transience—you might want to drop that down a number. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for two to three minutes of crashing guitars and ear-grabbing hooks at a time, feel free to add a point or two.
The tragedy of Locksley is that, as a somewhat obscure guitar-based indie band, the people most likely to find them are the people least likely to actually like them. A song like “Darling, It’s True” will come blasting out of an iPod set to shuffle like a goddamned rocket ship, but it does not reward close academic scrutiny. It’ll make vacuuming fun, but it won’t go down in history as a classic. It’s up to you to decide which you’d rather have.