Lovedrug | Everything Starts Where It Ends (The Militia Group)

lovedrugLead singer Michael Shepard confusingly ooohs and aaahs for about a minute, then returns to the chorus.




Lovedrug is a band of near misses. They ascended rapidly through the independent ranks to land a deal with Columbia on the strength of a strong fanbase and a couple of singles, never selling as many records as expected, and not quite writing the hit people predicted. I remember hearing them on the upswing, a friend playing “Blackout” waiting for my reaction. The song was sly, sinister. Recognizable, yet also unfamiliar. It was also not a hit. It is the kind of song that gets you into a band, but would never get anything other than college radio play. The fact is, Pretend You’re Alive was not a hit and neither is Everything Starts Where It Ends.

Their brief foray into major label-land has left them with an eagerness to please. At times, the band sabotages itself by attempting to be both Muse and Snow Patrol — epic stadium rockers and bawling balladeers. “Pushing the Shine” wails like Muse with a garage rock background. The strongest single candidate through the three-minute mark, it abruptly moves into its “arty phase” (read: uninspired ambience in place of a real bridge). Lead singer Michael Shepard confusingly ooohs and aaahs for about a minute, then returns to the chorus. “Theiving” is embarrassing to listen to, complete with lyrics like, “would you believe me if I told you that fairy tales come true” and the ill-conceived simile “hold you like candy on a Friday.” I don’t wish to misspeak — Lovedrug are extremely talented musicians. They are just missing missing that unnameable heart lying behind every great band. There should be no reason why they are not outselling Snow Patrol and pals, yet they seem to have wandered into a puppet show, with the Billboard charts yanking at the strings.

The second half of the album has the band stretching out musically and conceptually. As the songs get longer and less directed toward popular appeal, the band loosens up its chokehold. “Doomsday and the Echo” begins to display the reasons why Lovedrug was on the tip of every Bends-loving tongue a few years ago. “Salt of the Earth” follows, pummeling you with its iron chain percussion. The clinking metal creates a claustrophobic atmosphere powerful in its suggestiveness. I could do without the minute-and-a-half guitar solo, followed by another minute of piano noodling, but they never were shy about their prog leanings. The title track is a seven-minute blueprint — it revisits all of the elements elsewhere on the album, but pulls it off on the strength of the hooks. The song contains three parts that could legitimately carry a song. They stretch out into a “Fix You”-style climax before returning to the gorgeous chorus to close the album.

The last four songs almost make me want to rewrite the criticisms of the first section. The thought remains that it is even more disappointing to know how much better they could be. Despite that the band claims to “refuse to recognize a dichotomy between art and mass appeal,” Everything Stars Where It Ends often listens like a lesson on why most bands can’t have both. Catchy, but not quite catchy enough, experimental but not in an interesting way, the album languishes in a wasteland of almosts. C | James McAnally

RIYL: Muse, Radiohead’s The Bends, Snow Patrol

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