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The Lodger - Life Is Sweet

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Artist: The Lodger

Album: Life Is Sweet

Label: Slumberland

Review date: Jun. 16, 2008

The next gig that Leeds-based the Lodger has listed on its MySpace page is something called "Rip It Up: Edwyn Collins Night," so it's probably fair to infer that any similarities between this band and the late, lamented Orange Juice are not exactly accidental. And indeed, there are lots of similarities––the scrambled, jangling guitar flourishes, the almost disco-funk of the bass, the wistful smiling-through-discouragement pop lyrics. The problem is that the Lodger gets many of the elements of Orange Juice's sound exactly right, but ignores its angsty melodic soul.

As an experiment, try listening to OJ's "Blue Boy," then the Lodger's "My Finest Hour." The Orange Juice song starts in a flurry of martial drums, a tangle of hasty, manic guitars. Collins' voice, when it comes, pushes hard against the pop contours of the song, as if effort could (and perhaps did) transform easy melody into something weightier. Now, take "My Finest Hour" with its cracked-dry drums, repetitive keyboards and Ben Siddall's off-toned, wistful voice. It drifts rather than grips, glides rather than catches you short. It's like Orange Juice, but in the way a line drawing is like a sculpture of the same person, flattened, simplified, an allusion rather than a full-body experience.

The funny thing is that if you come to the Lodger fresh, without thinking too much about influences or comparables, Life Is Sweet is entirely enjoyable. "The Good Old Days" pits late-1970s firestorm spasms of guitar against a pumping "Rubberband Man" bassline straight out of the mirror ball era. It's punk vs. disco all over again, and this time, they end up in a corner making out. "The Conversation," too, with its sped up, slashed out guitar and shout-sung lyrics has an undeniable urgency, muted only a little by the wafts of girlie harmonies in the interstices. And "Running Low" brings to mind early MTV new wave bands -- A-Ha, Split Enz -- and their tricky, impermeable vulnerability that seemed to let you in but didn't.

But despite these pleasant moments, there's something surface-y and unsatisfying about Life is Sweet, these well-constructed pop songs seeming to rest on no very deep feelings, and perhaps not much of anything at all.

By Jennifer Kelly

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