The Layaways: We’ve Been Lost (Mystery Farm Records, 2004)

by Jason

Layaways LostOh yes! When the pop is good, it is oh so good and The Layaways bringing poppy goodness to the table in a fresh and interesting way. Hailing from Chicago, this trio brings Lassie Foundation style pop with fantastic 80’s embellishments. I hear the Psychedelic Furs, Jesus and the Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu, the Velvet Underground, and Gene Loves Jezebel in the crags and cracks of this band’s influences. Nathan Burleson (drums, percussion, and vocals), David Harrell (vocals, guitar, bass, and keyboards), and Mike Porter (vocals, bass, guitar and percussion) make up this power pop trio and, apparently, when they get together to write music, it’s magic.

The Layaway’s second disc, We’ve Been Lost, begins with walls of sound and driving bass and percussion. This song has the feeling of Flesh for Lulu if they had been making music as a shoegaze influenced band. It is as if the brilliance of the underground brit-pop of the 80’s was being channeled through this trio with updated sounds and perfect pop execution. “The Long Night” begins with soft guitar picking and displays fantastic bass work. This song has all the feeling of a 70’s pop song ala The Billions. This displays the diversity of this band: more than one lead singer. I only wish they would have made a listing in their cd jacket of who did what on which song. This song has a melancholy feel to it that is endearing. “Lying and Steeling” starts of with that driving pop sound that gets you mov’n and shak’n. It has a rock feel to the vocals and is certainly more raw vocally than the previous tracks.

“We’ve Been Lost” starts with electronic drums and is accented with fuzzy guitars and those fantastic Nick Marsh style vocals. There are fanciful tambourines and the bass work really is solid. It’s a fantastic, short pop song that one would have heard in the 80’s on World Famous KROQ in Los Angeles and been full of joy at the hearing! “Splendor and Lost” begins with a fuzzy wall of sound and then has acoustic guitar and spacey guitar float upon it. This has more of a folk type feel to it with the acoustic guitar playing such a prominent role. “The Answer” starts with pronounced drums and the bass guitar taking the foreground. This eventually turns into a fantastic pop song with acoustic guitar and shimmering high hat. The melody in this song is fabulous and the BGV’s with the leads are perfect. What makes this band really, really strong is how all the elements in the band really blend together to make a perfectly tight song.

“Nothing Left to Burn” begins with vocals and moves into the instrumentation. Again, this is a Billions style pop song, mixed with keys and great melody lines on the guitars. “Just a Dream” begins with jangly guitars and some acoustic strumming mixed in with accents of bass. Again, this song has a singer-songwriter feel amidst the indie-pop of the instrumentation. There are accents of shimmering guitars and straightforward percussion work. “Every Time We Try” starts of with slow paced percussion, picking, and breathy vocals. This track is a soft, subtle ballad, but not sappy and sick like that word “ballad” conveys, but in the sense that it is a love song and that it is soft and slow. “Bombs Away” has an almost alt-country feel to it. It certainly has a story-telling feel to it. This song certainly reminds me of great 70’s pop in the great sense. The disc ends with a track called “Contagious.” It begins with swirling, spacey guitars. There are tambourines throughout the track and beautiful guitar work. There are layers of guitars doing different things that really give the songs depth.

My only criticism of The Layaways is that I wish they would stick with one lead singer. Trading singers between tracks really makes the disc feel like it looses its coherence since the singers sound so different and the songs they sing really are different stylistically. Although, all the tracks are solid and extremely well done. Song structure, melody, and instrumentation bring something fresh to the 80’s pop that may be said to stem from Jesus and the Mary Chain, Flesh for Lulu or the Velvet Underground. The Layaways do know how to lay down the indie-pop. I will be playing this disc in my player for some time.

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