*** out of *****
Ahh the alterna-pop of the mid 90's comes flowing back when Lemuria's newest release Pebbles starts playing. The three piece from Buffalo, NY (though only 2 are pictured on the albums cover) instantly calls to mind bands like Smashing Pumpkins only with a more stripped down indie focus. The group has it's power-pop-punk crackling with pristine production from J. Robbins and songs that flirt back and forth with boy/girl sweetness and infighting. Relationships are at the forefront and the male female vocals play the fitting roles, but the tunes seem to work best when Sheena Ozzella takes the lead. Her voice can sound fluttery or cutting like on the opener "Gravity" which contains some somber guitar work and some frightful singing of lines like "You're good at/breaking hearts".
The group seems to put a lot of time into crafting these roughed up pop work outs and the songs feel longer then they actually are with squiggling changes and multiple tempo alternations. Alex Kerns vocals on tunes like "Yellowstone Lady" border on monotone and work better as supporting as opposed to leading tracks. Also the Kerns led "Different Girls" is mocking and ironic but just feels unneeded and spiteful, it probably should have stayed in a tour journal somewhere rather then leaving a sour taste here. The lyrics in general seem to be lacking that extra oomph that could push these tunes over the edge.
On the plus side the forcefully waltzing "Wise People" is the standout track with its chimes, speaker twisting guitars and robust drumming showing off what this group is capable off. Other tracks like "Pleaser" really cook, but there's a sense they could reach even greater artistic heights with an extra guitar or horns; this seems like a smaller group who is aching for some greater accompaniment. Either way, Pebble nails this type of alterna-pop music with a slight indie/punk edge and makes me wonder, just whatever happened to Veruca Salt?!?
I enjoy this band. I heard them for the first time at the Don Giovanni Showcase...even though they aren't on the label, which is a bit weird. In fact there seems to be a big deal which label they are actually on. Bridge 9 is known these days for their hardcore output (Wow, I did not know Agnostic Front had put anything new out...guess it is time for a seven inch purchase!) and signing Lemuria is anything but Hardcore, you know what...who cares?!? I hate it when these labels get pigeonholed, they should just put out good music. Period.
Anyway, I think I liked the bands live show a bit better then this album as there are a few tracks here that I skip when listening to the disk, but overall I dig the on the sound and flat out love the production from J. Robbins. The band sounds very much alive when they turn up the volume levels...and really I think that is where they work best. As I mentioned, would love to hear some horns pump up "Pleaser", that would be pretty frickin' rad.
Oh and click here to find out what happened to Veruca Salt.
Here are some videos for you to enjoy from Lemuria:
My Favorite Tune on the Disk "Wise People"
Stripped Down live version of "Chautauqua County"
And an older live tune "Mechanical"