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Lu: self-titled

Ben Varkentine


Label: Pulcec
US Release Date: 2001-09-11

Somewhat anonymous, Lu play retro-new wave, playing "alternative" pop/rock instrumentals on drums, bass, guitars and assorted unspecified machines that sound like an Atari arcade game. All of this happens to be things I think are very nice, but . . .

Who are LU (who who, who who)? A quick trip to our friends at darla.com tells us, "LU features former members of Washington DC's Lorelei, Gloworm, the Saturday People, Whorl, and The Lilys." Further investigation reveals those former members to be Matthew Dingee (beats and hits), Dan Searing (bass lines) and Kristaps Kreslins (guitar).

The first cut, "Mood Elevator" marches out of the speaker with repetitiously strummed guitars, kick drum, and a jagged bass line with a subdued, glittery sheen. Spoken word collages turn up on "Hot Knives" with little vitality -- this kind of thing was old in 1989. Mutant beats turn up two or three times, "Biometric Authentication" uses a white noise-puff-of-air like percussion effect and "Sofa Compact" and "Pink Sock" have a similar sonic seascape (Say that seven times fast), in fact the former sounds as if its beats are being played at the bottom of the ocean. Finally, "Cathartic Disintegration" starts out with some teeth-rattlingly low guitar, but is too weak to come close to living up to its title.

At this point, in a contest of likely endurance, I wouldn't bet on LU. Too lightweight to matter, not lighthearted enough to enjoy. Far from being gripping, this music is barely functional, and contributes nothing to the development or maintenance of the larger whole of it's style. It's too straightforward, lacking the pluck to fiddle more with its sound pictures. Insubstantial, likely to fade away, and not even notable enough to be irritating. You know what LU could really use (besides, obviously, another release date)? Focus. Structure. Melodies. Not to mention . . . lyrics.

Darla.com claims that the songs are wordless so as not to weigh them down with "messages". That may very well be, but the problem is they are not weighed down by anything else. These are ready-made backing tracks for a gifted singer and/or lyricist (Does Neil Tennant need some new, young collaborators?), but without them, they go nowhere for too much of the time, too methodical to be mad, too low-gear to really kick in.

Drastic measures would have to be taken and great strides made in improving their recordings for me to break down and listen to Lu again. How I long for the sounds of silence. Still, at least the album is short -- less than 40 minutes -- and that's worth something, in this day and CD age.

lu lu

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