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Artist: Lamps

Album: Lamps

Label: In the Red

Review date: Nov. 23, 2007

We all know the formula to reduce Rock 'n' and Roll to its basics – find a beat to lock on, find a change, and top it with three chords. It's a wonder that the formula can continue to yield surprises. But it also seems like the absolute minimum, leaving no room for further simplification. Not without risking tedium. Lamps go there. They find find plenty of flame with just two chords, two notes, some growled vocals in the background. When they break into four different tones, they're at their most intricate.

But these are songs, not arty blasts, not too far from the Cramps and Link Wray. It's very close to the long-running band of Aussie roughnecks known as feedtime. Like those bands, Lamps don't bury the songs under white noise, even as noise keeps spilling out of the cracks. When they built these tracks, it's like they stopped as soon as they figured out what made that beat work, what shift in the shouting was enough to distinguish a verse from the bridge.

Under this kind of arranging, variations in volume become massively important. Even if the song "Eliseo" never moves off a goose-step march, the bursts of guitar and tumbling drums break it up into distinct parts. The guitar riff is mostly one note, first heaped with distortion, drums holding back, then drums going crazy with the guitar tamed, and so on. I can't figure out what "Eliseo" means, but the song wouldn't work if he weren't yelling about it. It's a pretty word, tossed in a total din. (Plus, the guy who does the yelling goes by the name Monty Buckles.) "Anvil" describes their approach even better. Monty is telling someone off, but that's secondary to the blacksmith ping of the beat. It's the impact of that beat that's the hook, not the refrain. So the song gets called "Anvil." Sparks fly.

Amazingly, that's enough. This record wouldn't hit so hard if it didn't teeter so close to monochrome. The white parts are like having a flashlight shoved in your face, and the black parts are like an oil spill. Yet the oil has got that weird rainbow glint that makes you stare at it while it swirls in the gutter.

By Ben Donnelly

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