Sometimes working in retail leads to better things. Take the case of Omaha, Nebraska's Galen Keith and Gene Sanny, who worked together in the same store for several years. Keith was a vocalist for local cover band the Labels. Sanny was a songwriter, and he'd share tapes of his songs with Keith. They agreed to work together, if the opportunity arose. It did in 1999, when Sanny's brother Brian agreed to play bass and a trio was formed. But things really came together when Keith enlisted the services of Rob Mendick, former drummer for the Labels.
Each of the four band members realized they had similar musical tastes -- preferring simple, catchy radio-ready melodies. And so, with a unified vision and a name denoting how often love issues define their songs, Lovetap was born.
Their auspicious full-length debut, There's This Girl, features eleven polished, well-produced songs that are simple and catchy and very radio-ready. Keith has a powerful voice well suited to the music and with the very strong drumming of Mendick, things hold together well.
"Lemonade" opens the proceedings -- a light, airy confection about how rough spots in a relationship can take one off one's game. The solution offered is to walk out the door.
It's hard to gauge which song is the strongest (almost all of them have "single" potential), but "Beside Myself" is one of the contenders. It deals with adolescent weltschmerz, that restless disaffection that turns into hate for everything. Soundwise, this is very much along the lines of post-punk and power-poppers like Blink-182, Ultimate Fakebook, Jimmy Eat World, or the Canadian Treble Charger -- strong beats pounding above powerful guitars and great vocals.
Depression and disappointment are the subject matter in the actual first single, "The Wonder's Gone". This mid-tempo ballad features nice basswork from Brian Sanny, pleasant harmonies, a wonderful sing-along chorus, and fine keyboard work from Gene Sanny.
Another potential radio candidate is "Quiet Josephine", another hard-rocking piece of musical fun. Here we are privy to some of the wonders of the much thought-about Josephine: "You're the only girl I've ever known that cares about the real things / Like video games and movie lines and who was Broadway Joe / You're the only one that I would ever trust with all my feelings / You're the only girl I ever met that really cared to know". Simple thoughts caught in a catchy tune -- that's Lovetap.
"Wrecked" is about a guy a bit on edge following being left by his girl (snapping at friends, etc). "The Pain" is about providing friendship and guidance to one beset by problems. "Call Me Crazy" is an upbeat accusation of one who is lonely and lying about it.
Lovetap goes retro in the pleasing "Please", an early 1960s-ish sounding tune somewhat reminiscent of the Dusty Springfield hit "I Only Want to Be With You". You need strong vocals to pull off this type of song, and Galen Keith manages to do it justice and then some.
There are yet more relationship troubles set to music in "Neverfly". After two months and a day, he gives up on her because she "is psycho". The tables turn in "My Everything", and this time, the narrator has been ditched: "I just lost my everything / Now I don't have anything / I just lost my everything and no one cares". Ah, young love.
Easily the most poignant song here is "Kayla", inspired by the real life incident when a first-grader from Michigan was killed by her classmate. The CD comes with a bonus DVD that includes a very touching and well-done video for this anti-school violence song.
Also on that bonus DVD is a live performance of "Quiet Josephine", as well as band interviews. This too is high quality. You'll find yourself doubting that this is their first release.
Gene Sanny has a gift for writing instantly accessible songs that invite singing along, and stay with you long after the CD stops. I might argue that he could aim higher with some of the lyrics (some run toward the insipid at times), but it's all part of the young angst that fuels the music. And, truly, it works.
Lovetap's There's This Girl is a promising collection that will garner attention from people who like hook-filled guitar-driven power pop and should ensure that they won't remain an indie secret for very much longer.