[18 May 2009]
Australia’s the Lovetones bring a down-under haze to psychedelic pop mindful of the 1960s. Galaxy-laden liner notes (with artwork drawn by the frontman’s sister, Anna Tow) echoes the cosmic sound found therein. Separated into three sections, the songs seem to reflect time before a life-altering moment and after that moment. Perhaps the intentional track separation denotes the multiple layers of reality as in the title, Dimensions. Dedicated to the frontman’s mother, Dianna Alice Tow, the former explanation seems more plausible with her recent passing. That being said, the album combines one beautifully and intelligently crafted track after another.
Mixed in Los Angeles by Rob Campanella (the Brian Jonestown Massacre), who also contributes piano and melltron to the mix, the disc opens with a psychedelic, echoing primordial soup of manipulated guitar feedback (by Serge Luca) and electronic noises. The instrumental piece, “Moonlit Suite (Her Room)”, sounds like it could be along the same lines as Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” in its spatial exploration. The next song, “Journeyman” involves frontman (and principal songwriter) Matthew J. Tow’s (of the Brian Jonestown Massacre) layered-falsetto vocals as the electronic-space atmosphere continues. Campanella’s mellotron oozes a symphony of strings across the board as sweet and splendorous psychedelic 1960s musical references can be found throughout the disc, and its Beach Boys and Byrds-like vocal harmonies have a sunny, faded quality to them. The Lovetones’ song themes range from the nostalgia for the love of a woman (“Two of a Kind”) to utterly emo and existential drowning (“Look at the Waves”). The latter perhaps best exemplifies why Morrissey chose this band to open for his first Australian tour.
The special touches and finesse put into this album take it above and beyond any other trendy, predictable psych-pop band’s album. For instance, a 12-string jangling guitar plays overtop a twangy low-end guitar (with a country-baritone sound), becoming vaguely reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Games”. The song has an eerie component to it, as guitars strum minor chords and the vocal harmonies sound particularly zombie-like. Layers of gritty tambourines and chunky drumming (courtesy of Christopher Cobb) make the song more rock than a wallowing threnody that its title suggests. “A New Low in Getting High”, takes the Brian Jonestown Massacre association a step further, as it as co-written by Tow and Anton Newcombe. In addition, Anton also remixes the second song on the album (“Journeyman”) as a bonus track.
The album’s strongest offering, “Love and Redemption”, involves one of the catchiest jingles heard this year. It serves as a self-affirming, negativity-removing call to arms. The opening lines dumbfound the listener: “I forgot who I was / I fell down / I could not get up / She said, ‘Son, come here / You need some love and redemption’”. It’s a timeless sound with Tow’s vocal affectations leaning towards John Lennon’s. “There Is No Sound”, while minimal spatially, expands as soon as the baroque multi-part vocal harmonies emerge. When the glockenspiel-like desk bells (by Nelson Bragg) mix into the picture, the sonic slate gets wiped clean for a new chapter. When the final song, “When It Comes”, hits the board, it emerges like a collective tuning. The song describes Tow’s mother’s death and his frame of mind going forward, “The deepest love that’s ever been / The greatest gift she can give / I will stay by your side / I will stay until the end when it comes”. The piano gets pitted against slide guitar and periodic tambourine flourishes, then fizzles. What an amazing lady she must have been.