Lisboa – The Recreation EP

Lisboa
The Recreation EP

Bands like Lisboa are the reason I love $5 shows at bar lofts. A few months ago, I was sitting at Jacoby’s in Detroit, sipping a few drinks and hanging out at a show, when some random guy with a guitar steps up on stage in a white t-shirt and perfectly fitting jeans. He had these ‘indie rock guitarist’ looks that pissed me off to no end, seeing as chicks dig that sort of stuff, while I look more like Grimace without the purple skin pigment. After a bit, I stopped spiting this guy long enough to see a drummer and a bass player behind him, though they’re motionless as he started to play. After 30 seconds of nothing more than his vocals and dirty, crispy stop-and-go chords, I headed towards the stage. When the bass and drums kicked in with a catchy rhythm to add to it all, I was completely hooked. Within the span of a three-minute song, my disgust for Joe Lisboa had turned into musical awe.
Flash to five months later, and I find myself sitting and listening to Lisboa’s The Recreation EP, and every time I spin it at work, or at home, or in my car, I get that same stupid grin on my face that I had at Jacoby’s that night. I bet I’ve played this disc more than 50 times in the two weeks I’ve had it, and I can’t help but bop along with the beats while I air guitar and sing along at the top of my lungs. The songs on The Recreation EP are just that damned catchy.
“Penultimatum” kicks the disc off with a poppy guitar crunch and the lyrical questions, “Have you got the hang of it? / Has it got its fangs in you?” In terms of this disc, it only takes the first few seconds of the following “Swansong Blue” to induce an emphatic answer of yes, courtesy of a toe-tapping rhythm and a set of catchy, yet forceful guitars that back a sing-along chorus. “One Good Reason” offers up what is probably the catchiest rhythm on the disc, a back-and-forth stepped rhythm guitar riff with an almost church-organ-ish keyboard part buried in the mix. The guitars are up-front, with just a hint of fuzz thrown on them to keep them sounding nasty. “The Right Height” takes another so-catchy-it’s-wrong guitar riff and weaves a meandering Casio rhythm around it, keeping the attitude light despite Joe’s somewhat painful relationship observation that, “This is more than metaphor – We are less than two.”
The crown jewel of Lisboa is the sprawling “Archivist,” the only track here to bust the four-minute barrier. While the guitars catch that wonderful combination of dirty and catchy, the best part of this song is definitely the drumming. During the verses of the song, when the rhythm slows down, drummer Rob Moon goes off, with little offbeat bits that add another dimension to an already outstanding song. The slowed-down portions of the song are nice, but the band quickly whips back into a chorus that’s as catchy as anything else on the EP. The track builds to a strong ending, as Joe sings himself to an intense scream to close the song (“Here’s my toast to motion / To every dream deferred / To winter’s blue fingers / To rented rooms / To you”).
The rocking “Well-Wisher” closes the disc out with a story of love gone wrong that relies on lyrical wordplay as much as it does crispy sounding guitars. Yeah, the band rocks, but the lyrics themselves are so poetic that they bring smiles to faces, even though they’re supposed to be painful (“I wish you well / But I can tell you wish I sang for someone else / I wasted change on wishing wells / To make you change, to make you mine / I did my time and stood in line for you / But I can’t stand for this / I wish you well but I can tell / I wasted all these lines on you”). Just another busted-heart love song, sure, but one with smart enough wordplay to make the topic a bit fresher.
Keep in mind, though, that good things come in tiny packages. The six songs here just barely scratch the 20 minute mark, which makes The Recreation EP just long enough to leave on repeat without the songs getting terribly annoying and repetitive, while being just short enough to bring about wishes for more. I still don’t feel like I’m giving the vocals enough attention – even if they do seem low in the mix at times, the phrasing and delivery of Joe Lisboa’s intelligent lyrics adds some pleasant twists to this EP. Gems like “You know a lie’s the shortest path between two points of view” just don’t grow on trees. Despite that, the best part about The Recreation EP might actually be the results of the actual recording and mixing process itself.
Moon recorded the tracks for the EP in his home studio, giving the tracks a garage-y feel to them. Still, even in lo-fi, the mix itself is clear as day, as the drumming comes through strong and the bass rolls around clearly, though the guitars still manage to steal the spotlight more often than not. Arguably the best part about the mix, though, is that the lo-fi quality forces listeners to realize that the album isn’t a quality record because of studio magic or 800 hours of layered overdubs, but because the actual material performed is stellar (a fact that stands out even more after having seen the band live).
My fingers are crossed that Lisboa somehow sparks off a trend of smart, well-written, catchy, dirty guitar-pop in the Detroit music scene. Until that happens, though, I’m certainly more than content to dance around my apartment in my socks while rocking out to The Reputation EP on repeat, and this stuff is so good that I shouldn’t be alone in that. I simply cannot find enough good things to say about this CD. Don’t let this be the best release you haven’t heard this year – recommended, and then some.