Wed Nov 02 2011

Once upon a time, there was a band called Lake Trout, and it was one of the best bands in the world, blending elements of jazz, electronica, punk and experimental indie rock into a powerful and ever-evolving stew of sound. Unfortunately, that band never hit it big, and its members evidently tired of the lack of recognition and moved on to other things. Let’s hope Loyal Divide doesn’t suffer a similar fate, because it’s the only other band I’ve come across that scratches a similar itch, as evidenced both by its live show and its new album, Bodice Ripper. The only conceivable blanket genre tag for this album is experimental pop, which sounds complimentary in itself but doesn’t at all do Loyal Divide justice. While not all catchy, a lot of these songs feature unique hooks that might only exist on the fringe of mainstream palatability, but just try to resist them. Try the synthesized screech of “Vision Vision” over that infectious bass groove, or the disco beat and stuttering vocal sample that acts as a chorus for “DDT”, or the crushing lyrical nakedness and relentless methodical pulse of “Otto”. If none of these suck you in, consider yourself brainwashed by American Idol.

Then there’s the band’s pure freaky side, which is always there as an undercurrent but really comes to the fore on the free-jazz-meets-synthesized-post-rock of “Perv Fury”, and the scuzzy industrial smoothing of “Labrador”. When it all comes together, you get the triumphant Tortoise/Godflesh hybrid of “Baladron” and the mesmerizing atmospheric/tribal/darkwave of “New Years”. The intent is not necessarily to disturb, but the alternating elements of frenzied noise and subdued sadness are bound to churn up some conflicting emotions along the way.

Through it all, melodic bass lines conjure comparisons to Twin Shadow, haunting guy/girl harmonies pop up at the perfect moments, and various outlandish noises intermingle with recognizable instrumentation at will. The juxtaposition of the electronic with the organic is nothing new, but few bands do it so well. The final three proper songs on the record are built from sparse acoustic guitar, but so much other stuff happens that you feel like you’ve experienced a full-length tragic melodrama in the span of twelve minutes. The album comes off as scattered at first, but after several listens a grand, unified vision emerges, as painful as it is beautiful, eclectic but cohesive, nearly flawless.

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