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Album Review: TBA

Friday, October 12, 2012

Album Review: Lower Than Atlantis – Changing Tune

From albums that feature symbols of a violent and poor upbringing (a smashing television and hands holding pocketfuls of shrapnel), 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 than they are . 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 production applied.

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 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
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