Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Lovethugs - Babylon Fading - 2004

The Lovethugs' second album, 2005's Babylon Fading is a slight step forward for the Oslo, Norway, quartet (plus a percussionist). 2003's Playground Instructors was a trippy but melodically strong neo-psychedelic record that sometimes strayed into jam band territory and was held back by vocalist Jorgen's awkward vocals and lyrics. The same pluses and minuses apply here, but the pluses are stronger and the minuses are less obvious. First those diminished minuses: the vocals aren't quite as far out front and Jorgen seems more relaxed at the mic, they blend their jams into the songs much more smoothly, and the lyrics are less clunky. On the plus side the songs are stronger, the arrangements more organically trippy, and the band sounds more at home in the studio and just much improved in general. Unlike the first album, some of the songs here will stick with you for good reasons: "Save My Soul" is a fine mid-tempo groover with bubbling percussion work from Mudman (who shines throughout on various forms of percussion and possesses the perfect name for a behind-the-scenes percussion specialist), while the rollicking, Kinksy "Close Beside Her" and the hard-rocking "Up for Love" are as good as any by current practitioners of the retro pop psych underground sound. Only a few tracks ("I've Heard a Rumour," "Love Machine") sound as forced or ridiculous ("Night Time Seance," "The Midget") as those on the first album. The Lovethugs need to lower that ratio a bit to deliver a truly satisfying album, but Babylon Fading is still an improvement and a solid neo-psych nugget. -AMG