LandSpeedRecord! – Intermission

LandSpeedRecord!
Intermission

Over the past few years, Baltimore, Maryland’s LandSpeedRecord! has built a solid reputation for itself with its quirky songwriting and frantic musical execution. LSR! has always managed to be both catchy and somewhat inaccessible at the same time, which seems to have created multiple love/hate relationships with the band. The band’s lyrics have always generally been even more hyperactive and varied than the band’s music, and Charley Jamison’s unique vocal delivery (alarming without hitting ‘shrill’ level) only gives LSR!’s material an even larger sense of musical urgency.

With Intermission, though, it seems that LSR! has toned things down a bit and offered up a surprisingly mature album. After going through multiple personnel changes over the past few years, Jamison and company have settled on a four-piece lineup that includes a cello player (Corrie LoGiudice) – a decision that seems to have affected both the songwriting style and overall sound of the band.

Despite the oftentimes bright, upbeat musical colorings of previous LSR! material, the band’s moods and themes tended to lean towards intelligently dark material. Sure, the supremely fast-paced, quick lick material may not be present on Intermission, but if anything, the addition of the cello to this set of more deliberate material actually makes Intermission LSR!’s most legitimately dark album yet. One HUGE constant, however, is the continuation of LSR!’s tendency to field amazing rhythm sections (fleshed out on Intermission by bassist Paul Gier and drummer Jeff Bradford, with former bassist Thomas Stehr helping out on a few tracks as well).

While the band may have shelved some of its ‘random freak-out’ edge, that tendency is replaced by some of the band’s best-developed material to date. “The Linda Lovelace Memorial Fund” unfurls slowly, as the song’s initial fuzzed-out drone-stomp melts away into a delicate acoustic bridge, setting up the resurgence of a passionate redux of the song’s chorus. Both lyrically and musically, album closer “Why Ask Why” is just plain fundamentally unnerving, talking of missing children, mortified parents, pedophiles, and the like. It seems that the slight cello touches throughout the song actually manage to make the song even creepier, though, as they add a sense of underlying terror to the song. The last 90 seconds are rounded out with a spooky sounding instrumental set, closing the disc on a positively eerie note. The sparse, spooky cello-and-guitar riffing of “Mr. Reeves” is only two-and-a-half minutes long, but by the time the song glides into the sweet-sounding slide guitar break, the track has easily established itself as one of the album’s most noteworthy points.

The opening to “Guardian Angel” is vintage LSR!, though the track quickly shifts to a much darker drum-and-bass tune, with cello noodlings emphasizing the dark lyrical content of the song (“A woman on a bridge drops one twin with the other one in her arms / As the second one his the water, she yells, ‘I didn’t mean them any harm’ / They fish the first one out right away, but they don’t find the second one for days / There’s no reason that the twin who lives isn’t the twin who floats away”). “Crack” is about as close to sustained, old-school LSR! as Intermission comes; the three-minute opener is a sneakily powerful three-minute deliberate rocker, though even on this track, the underlying cello backing adds a creepy touch. The surprisingly straight-laced “Glass Bricks” offers up yet another powerful nugget of LSR! lyricism (“…And the distance wasn’t as far as we thought between the nothing we’ll have and the whatever-we-got / Everything will work out is the mantra of the damned”).

“Oedipux Rex Applause” is a subdued, toe-tapping 90-second frolic with a walking bassline that alternately seems as out of place as it does perfectly embedded into the album. The cynical “Malthusian Second Helpings” grinds along on the somewhat dissonant combination of Jamison’s dirty guitar line and LoGiudice’s sorrowful cello playing, while the lulling “Welcome to Baltimore” manages to sound both fractured and beautiful at the same time.

“Instrumental With Words” (which actually is completely instrumental) shows that LSR! still has its trademark sense of humor. However, on Intermission, humor and offbeat showmanship has given way to well-controlled musical chaos, and the results add up to another solid release for LandSpeedRecord!. The band’s lyrics are still amongst the most interesting reads in rock, which only adds to the depth of the album. This one’s not quite as perversely entertaining as the band’s previous releases, but all in all, repeated listens drive home the fact that Intermission might legitimately be LSR!’s best album to date. Highly recommended.