Though they surely enjoy all the modern conveniences of the 21st century, one can’t shake the feeling that the men of Len Price 3 — singer/guitarist Glen Page, drummer Neil Fromow and bassist Steve Huggins — might have been born about 50 years too late. If it were 1966, Len Price 3’s three LPs to date (Chinese Burn, Rentacrowd and, now, Pictures) would have been released in a 10-month span. The band would have been hailed as garage/Britpop conquering heroes/progenitors, and hell, they’d probably be playing the Super Bowl Halftime Show in this alternate universe’s 2010. As it is, the lads are stuck here in the real 2010 proudly playing the role of keepers of the garage flame, saving rock ‘n’ roll instead of birthing it.
So yeah, if you can’t tell, there’s more than a little early Who in the Len Price 3’s potent musical attack. The band charges headlong into everything meaty, beaty, big and bouncy on Pictures, which was recorded on analog equipment at the UK’s Ranscombe and Squarehead Studios, with help from producers and Jim Riley and Graham Day (the latter of first-wave garage revivalists the Prisoners) and the Biggest Len Price 3 Fan in the World, Little Steven Van Zandt. Like Pete Townshend’s tunes, Page’s songs expertly merge dark themes with upbeat tunes. A creepy undercurrent fuels the opening title track, despite the propulsive rhythm section, singalong chorus and sub-two-minute running time. He sings, “She’s unaware of his devious intentions / keeping the snaps for his personal collection”; shades of the Who’s “Pictures of Lily,” no?
That streak of cynicism runs throughout the record. “They love her cuz she’s stupid / she wants a taste of fame”, goes the jangly “Keep Your Eye on Me”, Page damning both vicious tabloid rags and vapid starlets in the span of a dozen words. “Mr. Grey” is a Kinksians character study of a man unable/unwilling to transcend his menial job and boring life… even after his wife abandons him. The vitriolic trio of “Nothing Like You”, “You Tell Lies” and “The Man Who Used to Be” contains three personal versions of their best song, the hipster scene evisceration “Rentacrowd”, from 2007’s album of the same name.
Fortunately for their ulcers, they do calm down, long enough to bemoan the sorry state of their neighborhood on “If You Live Round Here” and then chip in the charming closing ode to a Houdini-like entertainer, “The Great Omani”. Still, they are at their best when they’ve trained their camera eye at the phonies of the world. Goodness knows they’ll never run out of material. British Rock — and yes, I’m referencing Townshend and Ray Davies again — has a proud legacy of angry young men. Sonically, the LP3 aren’t doing anything their forebears didn’t already perfect by 1967 — or really, anything they didn’t already do on their first two fully-formed records, outside of a few snatches of horn and organ. But the Len Price 3 are doing their best to honor this rich musical heritage.