[10 November 2003]
It’s hard to put down the Lucksmiths. They just seem so nice. They seem to be the type of boys who, if they were walking down the street and happened upon you moving some furniture, would quickly lend a hand and fix you a pitcher of lemonade after. They probably make great boyfriends who constantly buy their beloved little gifts for no reason at all. Mark, Tali, and Marty are the type of guys you bring home to meet your parents. Thus it makes it incredibly difficult to be too critical of them. I would be afraid of hurting their feelings.
So, dear Lucksmiths, if you’re reading this, don’t take it too hard, but A Little Distraction is not your finest hour. On previous efforts your lyrical wordplay and pop hooks were immediate and put a smile on the listener’s face, but on this EP you guys seem a little down. It’s okay to be sad, but the songs suffer from a lack of energy and the lyrics don’t dazzle like they used to.
Though accompanied by a beautiful piano line, things start off on a low point with “Transpontine”. A great opening lyric—“Anchor’s away!”—is squandered with a painfully depressed delivery. The chorus of “The river has a right side and a wrong side” isn’t particularly exciting or clever. The track is simply a downer of an opening to the EP.
“Little Distraction” begins with a guitar line that could have been used by any number of clean, guitar-strumming pop bands. Some tossed off backing vocals barely register, delivering the chorus as the song refuses to try and deviate from its generic pop melody, before ending abruptly.
On “Moving”, the Lucksmiths show some of their pop prowess in action, but fail to capitalize on it. A great hook in the verse melody is botched with a tiring chorus, which has the title of the track sung laboriously. As well, like “Little Distraction”, the track ends suddenly, as if the band couldn’t figure out what to do.
And don’t get me started on “Honey Honey Honey”, the sickeningly sweet closing song. It goes beyond making one nauseous into making one just plain angry. Is anyone this annoyingly cute? “Walk me in the morning through the clover / Never mind the bee stings / Your friends are calling me / And asking me to do some silly things”!? “Tonight I want to watch the evening news / Share a beer with you / And be in bed by nine”!? Thankfully, this ends before things get much worse.
But things aren’t all sickly sweet or depressed. “Successlessness” is a clever and fun little number, despite the inclusion of a harmonica. But the shining jewel among the bunch is “After the After Party”, a reminder of just how good the Lucksmiths can be. Upbeat, with shimmering guitars, this is the Lucksmiths at their best. The band on this track is the one that has created such a devoted following. It’s too bad that the rest of the EP pales so obviously beside this cut.
Lazy reviewers have often compared the Lucksmiths to Belle & Sebastian. On the surface the comparison is apt, as both bands employ chiming guitars, witty lyrics, and endearing vocals. The important difference, however, is that where Belle & Sebastian have an ironic or cynical edge, the Lucksmiths play it straight. So, in this sense, a better comparison for the Lucksmiths would be the Softies, who wrote summery pop songs in the same straightforward manner, also choosing earnestness over irony.
A Little Distraction finds the Lucksmiths oddly off their game. The diehard fan will still no doubt eat this up, however the casual listener would do better with Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me, the Lucksmiths’ 2001 full-length, as an introduction to this usually consistent, and often charming, pop group.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/lucksmiths-little/