Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Loved Ones - Build and Burn

The Loved Ones - Build and Burn
Fat Wreck Chords

After a major lineup shakeup that had the ever lovable Spider leaving, and Chrissy and Dave from The Explosion joining, The Loved Ones find themselves releasing their second full length for Fat Wreck and striving for rock and roll (not punk rock) greatness. Do they achieve it? Well, sort of.

There's always been that rock and roll element to Dave Hause's songs for The Loved Ones. Over the years and releases, from the demo until now, this has grown and grown. Build and Burn, their latest, is full of basic rock and roll structures, less distorted guitars, and far more instrumentation. They split their time between two studios for this record, but there was a lot of time spent with members of The Bouncing Souls and The Hold Steady (with two members lending guitar solos, as well as keys, saws, and other instruments to the mix). The overall effect is a very rock and roll, "Americana" record.

There's a good deal of storytelling, as opposed to more personal lyrics, which adds to the Springsteen vibe that oozes from this record. Songs like "The Bridge" and "Sarah's Game" both tell stories of "everyday" people and the trials and troubles that they face in their lives, and the toll that these lives take on them. "Louisiana" is a straightforward rock song that details the plight of people in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the difficulty of rebuilding their lives, through the metaphor of pounding nails and physical construction.

Despite "Louisiana" being the strongest Dave's voice has ever sounded, it does showcase one of the biggest problems with this record - the repetition of lyrics and overall limitation of Dave as lyricist. Even with one listen, it's obvious that there is a continuation of lyrical "themes" or "motifs" from song to song with "keep your heart" and "build and burn" (as well as ideas of sandcastles). Part of me sees what Dave is doing and how there is a connection through all of their songs and albums. But, at the same time, part of me feels like this is a limitation that he's still not quite over in his songwriting (as shown by using two old Curse songs to fill out the first full length).

Dave and the Loved Ones can write a damn good rock and roll song, not just good punk rock songs. At the same time, I feel like they're capable of so much more. There are great lyrics on this album, and then there are songs that make me scratch my head and think "Didn't I already listen to this song?" You can portray a theme without beating your listener over the head with it.

Overall, this is a damn good record and I enjoy listening to it, but it already has me wondering what their next full length will be like. Let's hope they hit that rock and roll masterpiece that they're shooting for. Until then, this record will still get a lot of spins from me.

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