Tuesday, January 10, 2012

THE LOST PATROL - "Rocket Surgery"


The Shadows-meet-Joy Division. Meet Ennio Morricone. Meet David Lynch. And that’s just for starters. Indeed, The Lost Patrol’s sonic spaghetti Western-in-the-sky belies their New York roots. Like stars that only come forth well beyond city limits, the band’s influences are legion, yet the product they yield is as singular as a life-bearing planet.

The Lost Patrol’s third album in as many years, the beautifully produced Rocket Surgery (2011) carries the listener ever-deeper into a void untouched by the commercial mainstream. “A softer touch / A face so sweet / A lust for blood / Awakes the beast,” croons vocalist Mollie Israel on the album’s opener, “Dead or Alive”, a vintage tune propelled by the sleepy determination of Michael Williams’s four-four 12-string and lead guitarist Stephen Masucci’s sparkling reverb.

Rocket Surgery’s centerpiece is a star-dusted homage to ’50s torch songs called “This Road is Long”. Here, Israel more than makes good on the promise shown on earlier tracks like “Homecoming” (from the band’s 2008 release, Midnight MatinĂ©e), delivering what is perhaps her finest vocal performance yet. Coupled with dark lyrics ("You gave good guys a bad name...") and lush orchestration, "This Road is Long" suggests Skeeter Davis fronting The Moody Blues-from-under-someone-else's-bed.

But, unlike Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett in The Black Dahlia, Israel isn’t merely playing dress-up. “Don’t look so sad / You don’t know / All that you have,” she pleads with the subject of “Little Girl” as Masucci’s guitar soars like wisdom of the ages.

To be sure, what distinguishes The Lost Patrol from much of the “shoegaze” genre is a brand of existential maturity that transcends kretek-infused apathy. As Israel notes on “Lost at Sea”, “When the strongest love / Wasn’t built to last / You know the brightest stars / Burn twice as fast.” Or, on “Not the Only One”, “You are the remedy / That sickens me.” Even a line like “I need you / To be mine / Dead or alive” acknowledges that, for better or worse, we ultimately have nothing if not each other. And for The Lost Patrol, that means everything.

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