Lovedrug - Everything Starts Where It Ends
Release Date: March 6, 2007
Record Label: The Militia Group
When we talk about music, there is always the tendency to let our own personal biases cloud otherwise objective assessments. This is especially true with regards to the words "underrated" and "overrated." While these descriptors could indeed be used in a strict barometric sense, they are often not. Thus, when someone calls a band underrated, it really just means that - aw, shucks, they sure do like 'em a lot, and wish they had their name up in lights like other halo bands. If we stop to think - really think - about the real stature of the word underrated, then there is perhaps no greater example than Lovedrug.
If you look and ask around to fans and bands alike, there seems to be this hushed, smiling adoration of the band in question. Concertgoers come away beaming, album listeners are always fulfilled, and even fellow musicians gush over Lovedrug's prowess - all for the band's skill alone. To be fair, Lovedrug's debut LP, Pretend You're Alive, was quite solid in its own right, stellar at times, but it still exhibited some missteps. As a whole, the record was somewhat short on confidence, and comparatively speaking, it was a little flat as well. The band structured its songs well enough, but they were still relatively easy to dissect. Be that as it may, the band more than made up for any shortcomings with its keen sense of atmosphere and tonal mood, both in music and lyrics. The end result actually came out sounding almost like a film or theater score - something Michael Shepard claimed they were pursuing even more with the band's follow-up. Now, just under three years after that soft-footed debut, Lovedrug has so impressively grown into its ambition, exploding in both sound and artistry.
From the rolling-thunder/soft acoustic haunt of "Happy Apple Poison," the opener off Everything Starts Where It Ends, it is readily apparent that Lovedrug has changed quite a bit over the last few years. First off, the mood here is even darker - more sinister. Shepard's vocals have bulked up considerably, and now lead the songs instead of just rolling with the tide. With this new strength, the Lovedrug frontman rattles off his macabre lyrics with bite, venom, and most of all, a storyteller's conviction. The band has not eroded itself to just doom and gloom, however, as seen when the track's orchestral chorus swells in, to offer an epic little ray of pop sunshine. The contrast is quite striking, and frames the record quite well, as this type of tactic is consistently employed across the album, both inter-track and intra-track. For examples, compare the spooky, bristling of "Pushing the Shine" to the borderline sunny "Castling." Hell, better yet - scope the gorgeous grandeur of "Thieving," where Shepard's (vastly improved) quivering, breathy vibrato dances and mingles with thoughtful piano and string contributions.
Perhaps Lovedrug knows how anxious pundits are to toss out the lazy Coldplay comparisons, or maybe they just crave diversity - either way, the songs do not linger in sensitive mix radio territory for long. From the chunky guitar riff and concussive drum kicks of "Bleed Together" to the detuned fuzz of the record's lead single, "Ghost By Your Side," it becomes clear that Lovedrug does anything but kowtow to easy generalizations. Of course, this point is hammered home on Everything's home stretch. "Doomsday and the Echo" once again repaints a darkened pop picture in the way the band so comfortably seems to do, and the end result is delicious. Despite its merits, though, it pales in comparison to the album's standout track, the sprawling epic, "Salt of the Earth." Here, Shepard's fervent caw illuminates the ghastly musical backdrop his bandmates create, as the cut hopscotches ever so delicately between the frightening and the beautiful for six and a half perfect minutes.
For the people that want to peg Lovedrug as an emo piano act from Everything's closer, backtrack one to the delightfully malevolent "American Swimming Lesson." For it is here that we see just how unique Lovedrug has really become. And also, we are privy to see how Shepard’s lyrics have evolved so cinematically. Nuggets like "With absinthe in your coffee/ and a gun in your hand/ you should not be hunting/ for ghosts in this land" solidify the fact that there is more imagination on this record than the movie industry conjures up in years at a time.
When it all comes down, Lovedrug has created exactly what fans should hope for in a follow-up record. Everything positive that the band flirted with on Pretend You're Alive is elaborated upon and bolstered on Everything Starts Where It Ends. Vocally, musically, and lyrically, the band has far exceeded expectations, and has proven that Columbia absolutely shit the bed in letting these guys slip away. Simply put, Lovedrug has set the bar for 2007, and this year’s future releases are going to have a hell of a time playing catch-up.
Hmm I was expecting you to give them a bad review lol.
Ive only heard 3 songs but Im expecting to agree with you. This is another great band that not a lot of people are aware of and they should be. Especially from a song writing factor, most of their lyrics if not all bring an origninal creative, fiction like twist to them that I love. Hopefully this release is as good as Im expecting it to be and it will catch on and they can get more respect and gain a bigger fan base like they deserve just off of the merit of Pretend Your Alive.
Excellent review as always Steve. I was never really sold on Lovedrug, but after reading this review and glancing at the "Recommended If You Like:" I think I might have to pick up this Lovedrug release.
This is a great review...I really like that you brought up a lot of comparisons to "Pretend..." because I really think the progress that they've made with his album is incredible. And your language is supreme.