After the opening 39 seconds of guitars awakening and stretching after a long winter’s slumber, “D””, the opening track on LP2, charges into plain view. The five members chime in together with an almost callous energy and enthusiasm. At 0:39 the crash of the five-piece is not merely the beginning of LP2, the sophomore full-length from Philadelphia’s Restorations, it is an affirmation. Long a niche band, or “the best band you’ve never heard of,” LP2 is the sound of a band swinging for the fences and, to borrow another overused phrase, knocking it out of it the park.
Jon Loudon, with pipes so husky they give Chuck Ragan a run for his money, largely directs the ship. Whereas the band’s self-titled debut heard Loudon voicing a restless confusion with his entry into adulthood, Loudon’s lyrics now represent a sentiment that’s easily shared: disillusionment with a prescribed path in life. Atop a barrage of chugging guitars and a punishing rhythm section (Carlin Brown’s drumwork provides a backbone thick as stone) Loudon finds wings.
Throughout the 36 minutes and nine tracks of LP2 Restorations showcase an enthusiasm and energy that borrows heavily from punk rock but with an intricate, layered depth. Yet genres in the traditional sense are an afterthought on LP2. Think the harshness of a barren, frozen Siberian tundra, and realizing this landscape is yours and yours alone to conquer (“In Perpetuity Through The Universe”). Think a rumbling groove that is realizing there are others in the same struggle (“Let’s Blow Up The Sun”). And finally, if you can, imagine the relentless Neil Young range that comes with the ultimate understanding that no matter how beneficial the company you keep, there’s a reward in starting journeys as you began them: alone (“Quit”). If it sounds heavy, that’s because it is: Restorations have managed to encompass the unforgiveable condition of humans in their mid to late 20’s with a grace that is driven home with commendable force.
The graduation from an incredibly enjoyable debut full-length to a self-assured borderline masterpiece is simply a matter of containing emotion. Restorations bottle said emotion and translate it on record better than their peers. It’s a palpable resonance that was born out of the band becoming more of a “Collective,” Loudon admits. “We just really enjoy being around each other in our practice space,” he tells PopMatters in an exclusive interview. “We feel open to share ideas, and nobody’s afraid of fucking up when we try new things. That makes the process really exciting and really fun. Everyone becomes really engaged and that’s reflected in the songs.”
Age (but not too much of it) has benefited Restorations well. They show restraint from taking the jangly “The Plan” into full-blown hooky, poppy territory. Yet the track, like all nine on LP2 burns into the psyche. These are tracks that stay with you long after first listen. “Look at those kids in the fancy clothes/nothing to show/nowhere to go,” Loudon rambles. He walks a fine line between questioning and angst, just as Restorations walks a fine line between a young act brimming with possibility and energy and a mature band that’s comfortably finding their voice. Their sprawling rock has found a perfect home on Side One Dummy as well.
LP2 only stumbles when it slows down, as it does on “Adventure Tortoise”, which plods along without the vision that carries most of the record. All the more reason to relish the rest of the record, which moves at a beautiful pace.
Though Loudon attests that it was a 2012 Australian tour that really brought the band together (“On that trip, everything was foreign to us. It was such an incredibly way to tour, to really find our legs as a band through touring. It put us all in such a great headspace, and everyone in the band was so great to be around on that tour. That was the point for us where we looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we’re a band now,’” he laughs.) Restorations now find themselves as one of the forerunners in a new kind of Americana movement. It’s one which represents a diversity of musical influences and seeks to represent the diversity of listeners first and foremost.
“Chalk it up to comic confusion/missing the point entirely/I was listening to Bob Seger/While you were listening to Pete,” sings Loudon on “The Plan”. Restorations acknowledge the variety of music available to listeners in 2013, and have chosen a path that borrows from their forefathers, unabashedly so. Marrying the destitute grit of Constantines with the elaborate emotion of Against Me!, Restorations are now moving, full steam ahead, towards becoming one of America’s best bands to hear, right now.