Lemuria - Pebble
Record Label: Bridge 9 Records
Release Date: January 11, 2011
As we fast forward towards a future beyond Twitter and I-whatchamacallits, many have abandoned prior decades that were so gracious to us. In the 90s, for example, L.A. Gears were a fashion high point, and bands like Superchunk paved the way for Lemuria to coddle a similar style. The indie rock trio carved a unique niche in the most unlikely of places (a sports-and-beer town known as Buffalo) and built themselves a foundation. They were the kind of band that when my friends turned up a song in their car, I'd get a giddy feeling of excitement and fiend for more. They were the band that provided pep and comfort medication, pop and heartbreak, and sweet crooning over upbeat guitar melodies. Well, where did it all go? They haven't ignored some of these elements, but a more mellowed phase has taken over the upbeat tone easily spotted in previous works. Primary vocalist/guitarist Sheena Ozzella chose the title of their latest release rather intuitively, owing to her "feeling of the record". My feelings reek of iffyness.
The trio follows a consistent tit-for-tat singing formula, switching off between Ozzella's lightheartedness and backdrop of drummer Alex Kerns' monotone monologues. On Pebble, Kerns grabs the front seat in a few female-themed tracks such as "Different Girls", which sarcastically addresses machismo behavior of the touring life when meeting random girls; the familiar duet vocals chime in unison during the reassuring chorus: "It's in your imagination, of course". "Yellowstone Lady" is a sweet, on-the-cusp serenade to the hypothetical girl willing to swap city life in an instant for the comfort of the countryside. A noticeable factor in refined production -- or perhaps Lemuria's history of playing the bassist-replacement game -- is that the bass lines don't disappear behind a muddy guitar, bearing tones that remain afloat on a treble high.
However, there are two ways to view Pebble. One way is to give it a voice of comparison to the band's well-recognized effort, Get Better. They swapped the more aggressive drum parts (see "Dog", "Dogs" and "Fingers" on album Get Better) for their recent slow and steady habit ("The One", "Gravity” and "Ribcage”). The other way is to let it stand on its own as a lyrically relatable album for indie rock fans. It’s expressed in the acoustic-feel of "Gravity" ("You're good at breaking hearts/someday, someday...you'll be old/gravity will destroy you"). The album can be considered a growth spurt of maturity in songwriting sure to appease laidback, settled down personalities.
This is not to say that slow steadiness and maturity are negative or that they cannot coexist to create a fun, lovable record. But to concede the 90s, I'd like to reserve my sleepy-time record spot for disc two of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, not Lemuria. Pebble shares some excitable moments, such as "Bloomer" and "Pleaser", but I don't see the record getting stuck in my head as much as I would have loved. I want sing-alongs, head-bopping melodies, and guitar parts that mystify me in that classic Lemuria style. They have, at least, stayed true to their roots lyrically, preserving the half-metaphorical, half-transparent confessionals of admiration and love and a consciousness for social interaction. But for me, Pebble comes across as a lackluster effort both in creativity and high energy, skirting across a sea of monotony. For others, it may fit into that stream of steadiness that they long for.