If you like the clean guitar sounds and fab beats of the Britpop songs of the mid-'60s, then I'd say chances are strong you'll really like The Lackloves' sophomore effort Starcitybaby. While many of today's groups trade in fondly recreating this golden era of music with jangle guitars and nice harmonies, what distinguishes The Lackloves' Mike Jarvis and crew is the strength of the songwriting. Many of these songs are good enough melodically to hold their own with the originals.
After five years (and two albums) fronting the critically lauded Blow Pops, Milwaukee's Mike Jarvis set out to form a new band that would remain true to his love of that great pop music sound of yesteryear. After a few years of personnel changes, Jarvis got The Lackloves into the studio to record the now out-of-print As Far As You Know on small indie label Endora's Box. Drummer Nick Randazzo left and was replaced by Nick Verban, former Blow Pop bassist Jack Rice joined the group, and guitarist Bob Eickhoff joined Jarvis for this new record on Rainbow Quartz (though since its release, Eickhoff has moved on and been replaced by Don Moore).
There is no sophomore jinx here. Instead, Jarvis is very much on top of his game. You'll find this collection of 11 new songs as catchy as ever. It's as though the Mersey took a sidetrack through Milwaukee, and Jarvis' Lennon-like vocals provide just the right level of grist and edge to the otherwise sweet proceedings. This is great guitar-based pop that invokes the spirit of the 1960s, with hints of the Fab Four, The Kinks, The Who and even some Monkees, Rutles, Spongetones and Redd Kross. It's not far-fetched to reminisce about the sounds of Freddie & The Dreamers, Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Hollies or even The Mindbenders here -- Jarvis has done his homework and crafts lovely pop confections after this fashion.
Starcitybaby opens with the jangle pop of "Starspangledsatellites", employing a nice use of the guitar's harmonics and even featuring a backwards loop as a reprise at song's end. This is a song reflecting back on a relationship that was and somehow now isn't, the players having moved on without quite knowing why: "I'll never know what's come between us, you and I / and we'll remain undefined until the end of time".
"Emily" is a tribute to an independent woman and her indefatigable spirit, done in the style of a new wave group from the early '70s (showing Jarvis' stylistic range). "Where Love Ain't Around" is a sugary ballad set against layers of shimmering guitar sounds, a pop tale of frustration and loneliness within an uncertain relationship. The middle bridge and ensuing lead break is pop perfection.
Jarvis switches to his Mersey Beat-vibe in the track "Goodbye". This is early Beatles pop simplicity, great rhythm guitars, bouncy bass, head-shaking beats, nice harmonies, handclaps, and guitar accents that are familiar as an old friend. The lyrics are simple, a reaction to being told goodbye.
Immediately following is yet another perfect British invasion sound alike, the very infectious "Down Deep", which gets away with the type of simple early Harrison lead guaranteed to elicit a smile. Jarvis' vocals are as genuine as the originals, as he tells us "being wrong ain't any sin".
"Molasses Funk" takes off into the noise/psychedlic pop territory of the mid-to-late 1960s, allowing for some nice lead guitar while trading on a simple yet repetitive melody. The singer wants out of a relationship with someone who holds him back, doesn't have the slightest clue, doesn't know him well and will never know.
Dulcet jangle pop is the fare with "Need to See You Tonight", a simple love song of the let's go anywhere, let's do anything variety, fueled by impressive guitars.
"Something in Your Eyes" is an upbeat song about a failure to communicate: "You think I'm misunderstanding something in your eyes / I don't think you're seeing me too clearly, I don't think you've got it right". "Lovin' On the Phone" is another up-tempo track of the utmost catchiness.
Jarvis goes back to the classic sounds of the late '50s/early '60s with his ballad "Do You Miss Me?" Ah, what Tony Sheridan could have done with this kind of material!
The CD closes with "Brown Eyes You" a nice use of harmonies and rhythms that pulls out all the stops, using every element that makes for lasting sweet timeless pop, whatever the year. My only criticism of Starcitybaby is that the lyrics don't really challenge the way they should -- and considering the strength of the melodies, they almost cry out for more distinguished words. However, you'll probably be so busy singing along you probably won't even notice. This is the old made new with confidence and panache -- a fun summer collection that will leave you wanting more.