Lisa’s Sons, Bummed Out
Well, now. Six years after their debut, Digital Nozzle, and long after I’d figured the duo (Stefan Mach and Jordan Brady) had gone their separate ways (and yeah, it sounds like they had, at least in the physical sense), Lisa’s Sons are finally back with the followup, Bummed Out.
And y’know what’s weird? While they were gone, a period lengthy enough that the band’s Myspace page is still listed as their primary online outlet, music seems to have caught up with the Sons. Back in 2008, there were only a relative handful of people out there making music like what’s on display on Nozzle (and on Bummed Out, albeit in smaller quantities, but we’ll get to that): full-blast, primary-colored, melody-heavy synth-pop.
Fast-forward to 2014, and we’ve got a FPSF that’s top-heavy with electro-pop bands, songs by folks like Freelance Whales plastered all over TV commercials, and what feels like a breach into the mainstream of keyboards-based bands.
So what’s that mean for Lisa’s Sons now? Are they now happily reveling in this new world of 2010s-era keyboard-pop wonderfulness? Well, yes and no. To be sure, Bummed Out does include a whole ton of tracks that some off like they could’ve been recorded right after Nozzle was released (heck, there’s actually a re-envisioning of “Canvas Girl” here, which was originally from that era), from the sweet, vibrantly overdriven opening tune “Euphoria,” which is like the sound of a fuzzy-edged painting done in nothing but bright, bright, almost neon colors, all the way through to “Rebuild,” which sits at the end of the album and serves as a bumping/bouncing, angry counterpart to that cheery intro.
Along the way, the band plays like excellent, underappreciated synth-rockers Mates of State or nerd-pop hero Atom and His Package and more contemporary folks like Capital Cities or a rougher-edged Freelance Whales. The synths warble and hum, carving gorgeous, ridiculously addictive melodies like the sound inside a dreaming robot’s metallic skull, the beats stutter and stomp along at a breakneck speed, and all of it’s lush and gorgeous while holding tight to a wire-sharp bundle of angst and bitterness at the core.
There’s “Missed Connections,” which takes full-speed, almost hardcore-like rhythms and melds them together with thoroughly beautiful male/female harmony vocals and layer after layer after layer of synths, the warm, thick “Part of Me” (and preceding companion track “Cursed,” which I’m pretty sure is the following track played backwards; weirdly, it works almost as well as forwards), and the overfuzzed, adorably speeding “Dreamland,” where I keep thinking is going to turn out to be an Outfield song.
Further on, there’s the excellent, down-but-not-out anthem “You’ve Won” (and it may be my imagination, but the vocals almost have a dancehall feel in the verses) and the spacey-sounding synth-rock of “Neo Planet X,” which makes me think immediately of The Rentals and is bitter and pained despite its sweetness. Plus, there’s the aforementioned “Canvas Girl,” a track I was always disappointed never got a “real” release; it’s damn good to see it here in all its heart-on-sleeve glory.
Alongside all that keyboard-y goodness, though, Bummed Out sees the Sons picking up their guitars and using those instead of synths to craft some truly great pop-punk, and that’s where this album shines brightest. They blast their way through the Stereo-esque “Every Minute,” with its awesomely sing-along-able choruses, and ride the line between The Replacements and Too Much Joy on the darkly-realized pop of “You Want Out,” both of which are pretty great.
They blaze with a Fat Wreck-sounding fury on “You Won’t Stay,” a badass song that comes off like a sweeter-voiced Dynamite Boy and features some impressive twin-guitar heroics, and take a severely “rock” turn on the sharp-edged, Weezer-like “Hurricane Clouds.”
For my money, though, the album’s apogee comes with “I Already Knew,” a flat-out awesome, driving, insanely insistent slab of indie-drone-rock that buries its guitars beneath a layer of haze so thick you’d have to slice it with a butcher knife. It’s so freaking good that I’m kicking myself for not hearing it sooner, seriously; I know the year’s only half over so far, but this is already a candidate for my favorite song of all of 2014. And yeah, that’s saying something.
So, here’s my plea to Mach and Brady: guys, do this. Do it for real; play more shows, record more songs, hell, go out and tour the country. Because Lisa’s Sons and Bummed Out desperately need to be heard.