Lewis: Progress and Regress

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By Steve Lichtenstein

The adage says “if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.” Problem is, who’s to say what’s broken and what’s running smoothly? Many would argue that alternative music, for example is broke. It’s a beaten path that can stand no more treading. Others would argue that it’s a plentiful venue through which to filter heartfelt angst masked with self-effacing, semi-bitter and cynical lyrics. Either way, broken or sturdy, valuable or worthless, the format rumbles on, with as many varied incantations as stunted replicas. So be it. Let’s stop classifying, scrutinizing, and analyzing, and just enjoy or refute the music and it intends us to.

But that’s where all the fun is. If that wasn’t the case, how can I find as many negative derivations for Lewis’ Progress and Regress as I do, and still feel simultaneously guilty for seeing it as a fine piece of music that stands on its own, away from the microscopic chastising that it so readily invites? It’s a vicious, fun little cycle.

That being said, it’s too easy to find derivation and use it as a crutch to dislike music. If you don’t’ believe that’s true, look at just about anyone making anything remotely good these days (Beck, Wilco, Ben Folds Five, Gomez, Pavement, just to name a few that pop into mind), and try to convince yourself that they could be anywhere without the music they grew up with.. It’s a silly argument that can’t be proven: music thrives on theft of ideas, or more precisely, the expansion of them. Even using the Beatles as an obvious standard through which 80 or 90 percent of what is popular today would have never been without, they are as about as derivative as it gets.

But I’m rambling. Progress and Regress is, at its best, a finely crafted pop album that aims for something more abstract, more unique in theory, but never fully attains it.

Still, it is a fine attempt, one which deserves considerably more attention than it will ever feasibly achieve. The riffs are simple on “For the Moment” and “Up for Air” (and indeed, on most of the tracks), and the songs bluster along with a self-evident carelessness that is relaxed and refreshing.

Unfortunately, the simplicity is a little too contagious. Translation: musical déjà vu. Many songs, riffs, and melodies seem rehashed from earlier ones, and you almost feel cheated.

Though not entirely. “Anywhere But Here,” “Questions Concerning This,” and “Change of Motion” are enough to make you miss Jeff Buckley and hope Geggy Tah will cover some Radiohead songs. All in all, Lewis have put together a record that works on its own, with its own little quirks and oddities, along with enough visible outside elements, to make them seem just on the outside of a musical disagreement which is becoming stale. If nothing else, praise them for that.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/lewis-progress/