Poor Luther’s Bones
Next to Nowhere
really want to see Poor Luther’s Bones live. Not because anything on their nervous album, Next To Nowhere, is so kinetic and fun that it captures imaginations, but I really want to find out what music they actually like to play. Too much of this album, their second, seems like a checklist—the peach fuzz alt-folk trip, the rambling CCR-jam that devolves into a finger-blooding two guitar breakdown, the amorphously provincial love song. Even their smaller touches, “baroque” and “delicate” production inflections, muddle up the standard game of name that influence. They get soft on decent punk songs; they push their pastoral moments past the brink of sanity. For five minutes at a time they dress up like their idols. The album opening “Beyond the Bizarre” is a silly little romp off Floral Street (read: The Zombies) with half-burrowing guitar waves.
The main problem with Next To Nowhere isn’t the way each guitar sets off like a cheap roman candle, crazily flicking and driving each fret to some pseudo-cosmic climax, but it’s the way that Poor Luther’s Bones isn’t fully able to subsume their influences into an identity.
Yes, they can do the twine and razor guitar purge of Dinosaur Jr. Yes, the soft/loud chorus dichotomy is here in spades. Yes, the old-man drums, fuzzed out vocals of the Garage Rock Revival (copyright pending) run this road. Think of them as the anti-McClusky—skim milk musicians trying to rip the rulebook in half with the fury of an indecisive psych major. Lead singer Garth Forsyth’s monochrome slow screech and Leo Scott’s old nail-gun basslines? Still nothing, sorry.
Another issue is that there is no real structure to the songs—just two to four minutes of art-house feedback howls before jumping into a kiddie-pool of British invasion psychedelic breakdowns. It’s a lot to toss around during the course of a pop song and it invokes a muted, befuddled response. Getting a fix on their sound is a lot of work without any real reward. Trying to pick out one instrument in the stew isn’t a pleasurable experience. The guitar goes right where you think it will. Ditto on the lyrics—heavy on abstract imagery and loose, memory driven metaphor.
“Get Loose!” fittingly is the only time the band has fun on the record. None of the “we’ve got to play music like this” attitude permeates the song while the whiskey-sour piano and kazoo lead the way like a splendidly cracked-out band leader. It’s a break from the slush, though it’s confusing why a young rock band would only use one song to let their hair down. Age is a creeping monster; I don’t think Poor Luther’s Bones gets that.
Reviewed by: Evan McGarvey
Reviewed on: 2005-10-04