Baltimore is not known by the nation as a musical town, however it is quite rich with young men making some very textured and interesting rock music. One of the pioneers has been the little known and often over looked Land Speed Record. Through all my years as a music journalist, the only band that has consistently confused and amused and surprised me has been this Baltimore crew. Road to Flight their most promising and realized release to date is no exception.
Yet it comes as no surprised that the direction this band is heading in was not easier listening. While Land Speed Record’s music has become more developed it has not become more pop savvy. Instead the chord and riff patterns have become more intense and interesting. The precision in time change, guitar work and breakneck beats should have made Land Speed Record the kings of the short-lived and mostly poor “math-rock” genre. In fact it has always been Land Speed Record that stood out as the only band capable of maintaining soul in such a bland and boring form of musical expression. Unfortunately the band has been overlooked by just about every underground community proving that even in “counterculture” fashion, trends and coolness are all that matter.
The themes of Land Speed Record’s songs have always been weird and awkward and humorous. While Road to Flight has many of these qualities on the surface, the lyrics and presentation of them are much more personal. This is where the great amounts of growth come in. The end of “Internet Killer” is a creepy/lonely fade out. It is followed by the sad sounding beginning of “The Best Revenge” which falsely starts and stops with a quirked-out techno beat that finally gives into the Devo-like guitar work supported with a rapid fire techno beat. The title track will perhaps be the legacy that will be most remembered of the band. It is reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” and easily as radio accessible. Yet it’s delivery of somber suicide lyrics make it a far more intimate and immediate experience. It is unfortunate that the band decided to follow such a beautiful song with a few tracks of off-handed techno experimentation. Perhaps they did not want to end such a wonderful effort on such a downer. But I think that the album would have come to a much more powerful ending with this acoustic track. The personally delivered song is so touching it’s hard to imagine that the singer has not given up all hope and done him self in. Let’s hope not.
Land Speed Record are caught somewhere between the new-wave cool a la Devo and punk brilliance. With as much contemporary influence to keep the sound modern, Land Speed Record also delivers enough unique style that will inevitably keep them out of the loop of “cool” with all the kids. For the listener, the key is to not overextend hisself or herself with effort to understand the wired sounds escaping the stereo, but instead to embrace them for what they are. Land Speed Record has come a long way, perhaps Road to Flight will take them to the more prosperous spot on the punk rock hill they deserve.