The third time's the charm. That's certainly the case with The Beat and the Time, the third release from Milwaukee, Wisconsin's own the Lackloves. The group shows how it has matured with this collection, taking off in a few new directions while expanding on their signature Britpop-era sounds of the mid-'60s (talking chiming guitars and rich harmonies).
With Mike Jarvis as lead singer/songwriter, the Lackloves have a distinct edge over others who attempt to recreate the great jangle psych pop sounds of yesteryear. For one, Jarvis is a fine songwriter. For another, he has a distinctive voice with that John Lennon-ish rasp to it (come to think of it, he even resembles a young John Lennon some). And now the Lackloves feature the guitar finesse of Don Moore, who adds a whole new dimension to the sound.
Formed in late 1996 after Jarvis ended a five-year stint with the Blow Pops, the band has been through a few personnel changes. This current line-up seems to be the strongest yet, and includes former Blow Pops bassist and vocalist Jack Rice along with already mentioned master lead guitarist Don Moore, who also adds additional harmony, writing, arranging and producing skills to the overall mix. After three years, drummer Nick Verban has left due to family and career considerations, while Tom Dougherty, the original drummer from the band's formative days, has returned to the fold (with yet more harmonies).
The CD opens with "The Radio's Mine", a song about taking over the airwaves and whose lyrics provide the album's title as well. Commercial radio has been a major disappointment to many, and the idea of the Lackloves gaining control sounds good to me. It's an upbeat start to things, and it features a hint of the harmonies and guitar licks yet to come.
"Still Missing You" is more of the new sound for the band, less rooted in the '60s and more of a modern harmony-rich pleasant pop/rock song (think Posies). Don Moore's leads have almost a Southern rock flair to them at times, giving a new dimension to the song, a lament about a failed past relationship that's still being missed.
However, the Lackloves still are capable of delivering that early Beatles sound. "If Ever I" proves this in a big way, recalling the jazzy flair of the Fab Four's early career ("'Til There Was You", "All I've Got to Do", or "I'll Follow the Sun"). Kudos again to Moore's way with the leads -- here he shows how smooth and effortless he makes them seem.
Another of the more traditional jangle pop tunes here (and radio-ready at a mere three minutes) is the sweet ballad "Never Gonna Fall", a fear of falling song driven by delightful guitars and harmonies.
Things take a fun turn for the psychedelic with "Nowhere Near Here", a sonic wash of retro guitar sounds and great three-way harmonies. Moore practically gives a clinic mid-song on psychedelic solos, then the phase shifters kick in. Nice work here as well from Rice and Dougherty, driving the song forward.
"Misfits Collide" shows again how the Lackloves have expanded their sound. The verses feature harmonies, the choruses even more so. Here is a contemplation of a marriage gone wrong: "Echoes of the wedding song / Played in my head / A joyous tune or a dirge / I'm singing alone again."
"The Has Been" is yet another fine song. Jarvis captures the sad tale of a woman deluding herself into remembering better times that never were while currently reduced to pathetic performances: "She loves the way they love her / And she's sure they're speaking of her / In a most sincere, and flattering sort of way."
Having a band full of capable singers enriches a song like "Do You Love Someone?" Sure, it's a pleasant little rocker (co-written by Jarvis and Moore), but when the whole band lets loose singing out the follow-up question "Is it me?" it becomes something more.
The Lackloves take a trip into raucous Lynyrd Skynyrd bar-band territory with "Excuse Me, Use Me," a musical celebration of physical acts uncomplicated by love. Hearing Moore's lead guitar on this one, made me want to hear him do "Freebird" as well.
The handclap-accented "Don't Leave Me Now" is an amiable sunshine-y kind of song with sweet harmonies, etc. However the lyrics (and yes, I realize it's just a pop song) are a little too much June-moon-spoon for me (and it should be "no one to confide in").
"I Could Be" has sort of a country-flavor to it in its plea for straight-talking honesty, again showing more of the new and impressive breadth that the Lackloves display on The Beat and the Time. The band plays well as a unit, and there's a real feeling of cohesion in the studio tracks.
The CD closes with the bittersweet "Know You Now", a ballad about coming to understand and know someone perhaps a little too late in the game.
In short, these twelve songs of The Beat and the Time are a real aural treat, and they get better with repeated listens. The Lackloves have built upon their previous sound, adding yet more harmonies and even more guitar (with truly stellar work from lead guitarist Don Moore). Mike Jarvis remains a fine pop tunesmith, and has that great Lennon-ish voice. If you liked that classic Britpop era sound way back when, chances are you'll enjoy the latest update on those sounds from the Lackloves.