Lacto-Ovo – Shoes & You

Shoes & You

I have no idea how to label Australia’s Lacto-Ovo, and it sounds like the band’s a bit unsure, too. A mixing of styles between innocuous indie pop and surf-rock, this album comes off less as a cohesive whole and more of a compilation of earlier recordings put together to satisfy fans. The four members all play in various other bands, and I’m unsure from the information provided whether Lacto-Ovo is a side project or a main work, but it has the feel of more of a talented side project than a full-time gig.
What gets me is the mixture of styles on this album. It starts with “I Fell from Space,” a 4-minute instrumental that builds in intensity (and feedback guitar). Yet it has a kind of sparse, incomplete feel, as if the moody, spacey-pop isn’t quite the sound the band was going for. Then “Black and White” comes in with a lo-fi pop sound, mixing jangly guitars with blooping keyboards, all mixed in with Angela Clark’s vocals for a laid back, rough yet pleasurable pop feel. And “Your Sweet Shoe” feels like an improvised affair, with odd mixes putting the guitars ahead of the pretty vocals and a slow pace that makes the whole song feel slightly stoned. The lengthy “Smurf” and “Blue Shoes” bring in some jangly guitars and odd, mellow, almost psychedelic song styles, stretched out over six minutes and perhaps a bit long by the end.
But if things would stay along those lines, I’d be happy. Instead, we move into some odd music, influenced by droning guitars or surf-rock. “River” starts off quiet but suddenly builds into those 70’s surf guitar licks and rhythm, a 6-minute instrumental that really doesn’t go anywhere but does show off some fine surf guitar. Maybe the best track here is the one that doesn’t fit. A nicely developing and oddly melodic track, “El Warrico” is just building guitar and keyboards, with Carter’s vocals not necessarily singing but making a nice accompaniment to the music. Until, anyway, it seems to change into another song around the 4-minute mark, slipping into silence and then starting anew wish washes of feedback-drenched guitar. And I have no idea how to define the oddly paced “Simply Dim,” a track that has bits of odd time changes and quiet, discordant moments within a nice, simple pop song.
I realize that Smokeylung is proud of its status for 4-track recordings, but what has set the label apart is that it truly showcases what bands are able to do with just a lo-fi, 4-track method. Lacto-Ovo, unfortunately, shows the limitations of that method, always sounding like they’re poorly produced and only half-done. That’s not to say any of the songs here are bad, even when they swap from garage pop to surf rock with no notice. It just feels like a side project of talented musicians having some fun, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it makes for something of an incomplete album.