Thursday, November 13, 2008

Smash Hit Wonder

Of course, Louis Philippe never became the "Smash Hit Wonder" he ironised about on Ivory Tower and neither will Laz, aka Bubblegum Lemonade. But that never prevented me from having high hopes for the debut album, which has arrived surprisingly quick and hot on the heels of his second ep Susan's In the Sky. But considering he seems to spend a lot of time in the cosy house he shares with wife Sandra (who sings in Strawberry Whiplash) in the outskirts of Glasgow, maybe it's not so strange after all. I managed to capture him on film (or memory card, nowadays) this summer and he does come across as a very positive character, just like the songs on the two eps are full of upbeat, exuberant pop.

The album is slightly different - more balanced, and the hits interspersed with a good deal of moodier and more laidback numbers - as any successful album effort must. In general, the wall-of-sound bedroom production opens up slightly to let some more air in, as in the examplary "Penny Fountain" with its feathery effervescence. This is one of the best new tracks on the lp and is joined at the top by "Tyler" from the Matinée Hit Parade compilation, the single track "Susan's In the Sky" and "My Dreams of You". The latter was a favourite of mine two years ago already, and although the demo I heard then had a bit more jangle (perhaps due to a low bitrate!) it's still a perfectly realised song modelled on The Byrds.

"Lost Summer Days" is an old song also recorded by Laz' previous band The Search Engines, which leads me to wonder if any more of these songs are old compositions? In any case it's a superior recording, which makes up for the fact that he didn't choose to re-record "When She Goes" - perhaps the best song he's written - but maybe he just couldn't improve on it!

There's definitely more of his Fender Jaguar on the lp than the 12-string Rickenbacker, which might be a conscious strategy to make us drool even more over janglers like the moody "Tired of Sleeping", coming across like a better recorded Rain Parade. I'm not at all surprised Jimmy Tassos mentions the paisley underground himself in the promo text. "Tyler" is finally revealed as a cat song (remember "Wop-a-din-din" by Red House Painters?). There's even room for an acousticy number at the end, "Last Weekend", complemented with some wonderfully languid synthesisers. But a word of advice is to perhaps lay off the electronic tidbits for future releases, as they don't really contribute to the songs. You can hear all of them here and here.

In a Swedish school G++ wouldn't be a very flattering grade, since G is for 'pass' and not 'good'. I'd give this record a proud MVG (pass with distinction).