[11 January 2011]
For four albums, Melbourne, Australia’s the Lovetones have been exploring the possibilities within an exclusively ‘60’s psychedelic sound. Their fifth album, Lost shows little diversion. There are no forays into post-punk, for example, although the title track’s intro is somewhat evocative of Factory band The Durutti Column; along with every other song on Lost, this song ultimately goes back to the ‘60’s.
Of more current artists, the Lovetones owe a lot of debt to fellow ‘60’s plunderers Brian Jonestown Massacre, a band to which Lovetones leader Matthew Tow briefly belonged. In terms of other ‘60’s copping releases this year, Lost shares some influences with Crocodiles’ Sleep Forever, although the latter release concerned itself with both the garage-rockier aspect of ‘60’s rock with some girl group touches sprinkled in. Furthermore, Sleep Forever couldn’t escape a Jesus and Mary Chain—themselves guilty of some ‘60’s girl group borrowing—reference or two popping up in reviews. The Lovetones are more strictly Byrdsian with an unexpected reference sticking out here and there. The biggest startle comes with “This Great Romance”, which could easily pass as a great lost Elliott Smith song. It is a beautiful moment on Lost, although Tow’s vocals are almost unnervingly uncanny. Given Smith’s own ‘60’s pop leanings, the digression isn’t much of a jar, just a welcome surprise.
Lost‘s other tracks largely start out promising, but fail to go anywhere too progressive or memorable. Sometimes artists can make a fine career out of sticking to what they know, but The Lovetones border on derivation. Why listen to the clearly Byrdsian riffs of opener “City Meets The Stars” and its follow-up “Chinatown Busride” when you can just listen to The Byrds? Lost is not without lovely moments—fellow Brian Jonestown acolyte Miranda Lee Richards lends her sweet voice to “Coming Home”, and “Free Yourself” succeeds in being reminiscent of John Lennon without being an Oasis track. “Earth’s Great Sleep” closes the album on a wistful note as Tow intones “this is who I am/until the earth’s great sleep sets me free”. Mostly, songs fail to live up to promising openings. The beguiling shamble of “Come Dance With Me” trails off into being forgettable and “Lost” falls back into dreamy ‘60’s tones after the initial Durutti Column evocation.
Lost is fine for what it is, but so many other artists are not only tinkering with similar sounds, they are doing it better. Even in the Lovetones’ native Australia, little known bands such as Sydney’s Belles Will Ring are adhering to a ‘60’s pop sound, but they are doing so with better hooks and more charisma. Elsewhere, the Brian Jonestown Massacre are still prevailing in spite of Anton Newcombe’s ongoing insanity, and Crocodiles’ aforementioned Sleep Forever showed lots of potential amid all its drugginess and shoegaze leanings. Even UK’s The Horrors are experimenting with a Zombies model, updating their keyboard blueprints with synthesizers and melding it with post-punk for a glorious musical mash. Maybe by album six, the Lovetones will have found the audacity to spread their wings and—like these other bands—make the ‘60’s blueprint their own.