Lower Than Atlantis have chosen to represent their move to a major label (Island Records) with a foetal elephant floating in space surrounded by a dizzying array of eyes. “The new album is our version of a 70s acid trip,” says vocalist Mike Duce, “and the artwork is what we feel best represents that idea.” Looking at it, I have never been more nervous to spin the disc inside.
With track-titles like “Cool Kids”, “PMA” (presumably Positive Mental
Attitude) and “Showtime”, I needn’t have worried. In a nutshell, Changing Tune
represents a collision of candy-coated pop sensibilities with their
more familiar, lyrically-introspective, punk rock ethos. The band’s
steady manoeuvering to a position of strength based around a
lightning-quick BPM and anaemic lyrics backed by cloying aaaah’ed
choruses is even more noticeable here than it was for sophomore album World Record. Suddenly, LTA are more You Me At Six than they are Funeral For A Friend.
Viewed in one light it marks a growing up of sorts for Watford’s
finest; a gentle mellowing of delivery from their raw, feisty
beginnings. Of course, viewed in another it might be seen as a
deliberate move to a more mainstream sound in an attempt to secure more
sales, particularly seeing as it comes with a generous laquer of glossy
Essentially, “Love Someone Else” and “Go On Strike” are vapid,
over-simplistic, day-glo pop-punk songs with a single, undeniably strong
hook. If these are intended to be the equivalents of addictive,
thought-provoking tracks like Far Q‘s “Taping Songs Off The Radio” or World Record‘s
“Beech Like A Tree” or “(Motor) Way Of Life” then it suggests a dearth
of quality material – honestly, writing three albums in three years was
pushing it anyway.
It’s the slightly darker, edgier tracks that deserve more of your
attention – the crafty, minor-chord rebukes of “Wars With Words”, the
abusively fuzzed-up guitar riff of “Normally Strange”, the jagged rock
of the compulsive “PMA”, and the thinking man’s ballad “Scared Of The
Dark”. Interestingly, with those tracks out of the way, the album ends
by twisting up the band’s pop-punk dial again and again they begin to
drift from their defining identity. Depending on whether you dig the
style you’ll either come out of “Cool Kids” and “I Know A Song That Will
Get On Your Nerves” covered in sweat or, like me, bashing your head
against the wall.
One final task awaits. Having consumed Changing Tune it is now time to go back and challenge Duce’s view of
it. The only parts of the album where I can recognise anything that can
be connected to “a 70s acid trip” are perhaps the two-chord “Prologue”,
which comes replete with a dislocated echo chamber vocal, the gnarly
verses of “Normally Strange”, and the odd, notably brief, inclusions of
reverberating feedback, twittering birds and whalesong. Perhaps Duce is
letting us in on some massive in-joke (it wouldn’t be the first time). I
mean, even these moments would be better described as peculiar
anomalies rather than hint at anything particularly mind-mangling. If Lower Than Atlantis conjured the title Changing Tune to highlight they had moved towards a more predictable end-product then they can consider it a mission accomplished.
Also online (with samples) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/lower-than-atlantis-changing-tune