LURK - 'Around The Sun' Album Review
2. Pressure Points
3. Crack A Smile
7. Fear Loathing
8. Top Secret
10. Around The Sun
After writing reviews for so many British acts, it's nice to finally receive one from over the pond, but it's got me pondering over something though; there's definitely something about US Rock that British Rock bands tend to find difficult to emulate. I’m guessing that it must be something to do with all of the vitamin D they’re getting from the copious amount of sunshine they’re able to soak up, while we’re sitting beneath rainclouds. Every now and then, this is compounded when you hear a US band who are capable of making your speakers emit sunshine; it's as if you can feel warm, golden solar rays radiating from your woofers and tweeters when you're playing their songs. You rarely experience this phenomenon when listening to British bands because… Well, British weather is by and large utterly shite - and who wants horizontal freezing rain and 50mph winds being emitted from their speakers? Not me!
Case in point: Chicaco rockers Lurk. They're here with their debut long-player to warm your cockles with their punchy and distinctly US-flavoured blend of Lounge Rock, Punk and Hardcore. Comprising of Kevin Kiley on vocals, Dan Durley on Bass, Pedro Unzueta on drums and the twin-axe attack of Kevin Maida and Alex Rackow on their respective guitars, the band has a fizzy, creative energy about them which comes across nicely on the majority of the album. By their own admission, the band describe their sound as ‘Ramones meets Devo meets B52s meets The Cramps’, but upon listening to them and passing them through my own internal ‘they sound a bit like…’ filter, I can hear touches of Nirvana, Dead Kennedys and Rocket from the Crypt, and I think I can even hear a pinch of Idles, which could end up with them appealing to a broad base of listeners.
Although their overall sound is locked into the Pop-Alt-Punk notch on the genre dial, the creativity exhibited by them on the album is actually pretty diverse and sees them careening off in a couple of surprising directions. It kicks-off with the opening salvo of ‘Chromosome’ which confidently slides up a synthy ramp to a strummed guitar before vocalist Kiley quietly sings ‘The old and the boring look and shake their heads’, before shouting ‘fuck ‘em!’ and the song explodes into a big, bouncy dayglo riff and pleasingly fuzzy guitars. Kiley has a Jeckyl and Hyde-ish energy to his vocals, switching between singing and frantic screaming throughout the song, which suits their sound well and acts as the gel that holds it all together. It’s a big, brash and confident opener to the album that does a good job at grabbing your attention and definitely bodes well for the rest of the album. It leads onto ‘Pressure Points’, which starts off with a chunky riff accompanied by a cowbell before deonating into a frenzy of drumming. Kiley sounds like an amalgamation of Joe Talbot and Jello Biafra as he struts his way through a display of his vocal abilities, which injects the song with a chaotic intensity while it pops along at a brisk pace. Tub-thumper Unzueta pounds on his kit like he’s going to break it and it’s rounded off with backing vocals from the other guys in the band, who bolster the shouty bits during the song’s chorus which elevates the track to one of the strongest ones on the album.
'Crack A smile' is next, which starts with stompy drums and a neat bassline, before breaking into a swagger and lifting off with a big, fuzzy riff that does indeed have the capability of making you crack a smile. They top this winning formula with a big creamy dollop of a sing-along chorus that makes the sun burst from your speakers; it’s a real belter and might just be one of the best songs on the album. There’s a gear change coming along though; 'See-Thru' comes barrelling along, heralding its entrance with a salvo of machine-gun drumming that Dave Grohl would be proud of, threatening to be a real belter of a track - and it doesn’t disappoint when Kiley goes into full beast mode, yelling and singing in equal measure and sounding like he wants to spill your pint. He injects the track with his effervescent, chaotic energy and driving the equally energetic riffage and pounding drums, so it’s surprising when the song shifts sideways into a calm chorus, with nice backing vocals from the rest of the band. It’s not long before Kiley transforms into the beast again and the song builds up to its previous intensity, heading towards a frantic crescendo before plummeting over a cliff-edge into a calm and gentle strumming guitar riff towards its end, which brings the next track, ‘Bermuda’ into our sights. It’s the track that acts as the recess of the album, eschewing the maniacal drumming, fuzzbox guitars and maniacal screaming of its previous tracks in favour of something that’s got a chameleonic desert-rock band vibe to it. It’s a beautiful-sounding track, which sees Kiley’s vocals shimmering behind a robotic vocal effect while the band show a different side to their abilities, layering dreamy sustained guitars over restrained drumming and bass to create something that sounds really rather wonderful, as the song spirals into an instrumental ending.
Just as you feel the last tropical waves washing over you, the calm is shattered by the discordant crunch of guitars as 'Steralizer' makes its presence felt, striking off at an urgent pace with a driving bass riff and precise, punchy drumming before Kiley sets about your eardrums with a barrage of his characteristic vocals. Unlike the previous tracks, this one is far more Hardcore and Punky in nature, and although it lacks the melodic charm of them, it compensates for this by being so much more in-yer-face. At just over four minutes long, it threatened to outstay its welcome a little on my first couple of listens, but on subsequent spins it’s grown on me and I think it actually feels like a necessary crack of the whip to get the momentum going for the remain tracks to feed off. The swagger and melodic hooks make their return in ‘Fear Loathing’ which, after the previous track, finds a different balance of its elements; present and correct are the now-familiar schizophonic vocals of Kiley, but they’re headed-off by a catchy and great-sounding call-and-reply chorus that brings the sunshine back to those speakers.
At this point in the album, it feels like things might be threatening to run out of steam, but then you get suckerpunched by three stonking tracks in a row; ‘Top Secret’ comes blasting off the blocks with a Pop-Punk explosion. Once it’s run through its first verse it breaks into a huge sun-drenched chorus which, after only a couple of listens, has the ability to get lodged in your head and grow into an earworm. It’s a track that really shows what Lurk are capable of when they nudge their shouty/melodic balance into the Goldilocks zone and shows a real area that they could (should?) plunder in future when they want to make some real crowd-pleasers. After that, it’s the penultimate sizzler ‘Strut’ which, as its name implies, is a track that’s got itself a big, ballsy swagger. You wouldn’t think that when it first starts, because it opens with a languid, melancholy jangle of guitar notes and it’s not until it almost hits the thirty second mark that Unzueta’s punchy drums and a catchy riff split the atmosphere and Kiley joins the fray with his chaotic vocals and the song builds into a great chorus and sounds as cool as flip in the process. Finally, it's the last track ‘Around The Sun’s' time to dazzle with another great riff, and it’s another track in which Kiley hits a great balance between his shouty/melodic vocals which, along with a big chunky riff, driving bass and pounding drums keeps the song bouncing along nicely before Maida and Rackow throwing a couple of great solos into the fray, which feels like the icing on the cake. For the last minute and a half, the track breaks down into an instrumental section which has got a warm and fuzzy vibe to it, and when it all comes to an end you can feel the room growing dimmer as (for UK and cooler-climate listeners at least) the grim grayness of reality returns.
It’s always awesome (and often a rare occurrence) when you hear a band you’ve never heard before for the first time and find yourself liking them immediately - and Lurk, for me at least, are definitely one of those bands. I’ve listened to the album several times over now and it’s a massive compliment when I say that the only major complaint I can think of is that I wished it was a little longer, as the majority of its tracks clock in at around or under three minutes long, giving it a very short running time of around 30 minutes. However, since this is a critical review, I feel that it’s my duty to balance out the mostly positive bias I’ve spun so far with a (arguably minor) caveat to make me seem a little less like an instant convert to a Lurk fan… A lurker… Uh, Lurkie? Yeah.
There are a few moments on the album where Lurk really shine, and for me I think it’s on the tracks on which Kiley tones his indefatigable energy down a touch so that the excellent melodies get a bit more of a chance to breathe, because it’s the melodic bits where the sunshine really starts to burst from the speakers. Don’t get me wrong however; I do love the energetic and shouty bits too, but only slightly less than the melodic bits. All in all, I deem this album to be a bit of a triumph of a debut, and one that the band should be proud of; it’s refreshingly free of the cliché’d traps that many contemporary bands fall into and there’s a confident, plucky attitude throughout that bodes well for their future efforts.
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Review - Craig Henderson