The Lassie Foundation: Through and Through (Northern Records, 2006)

by Brent

The Lassie Foundation Through and ThroughIt’s always disappointing for fans when one of their favourite groups parts ways. In the case of California’s The Lassie Foundation, fans have had to endure a break up twice. Initially, The Lassie Foundation disbanded after the release of El Dorado, a full-length CD. However, rumours of a reunion swirled on message boards, finally confirmed by the band with their fall 2004 full-length release, the highly acclaimed Face Your Fun. Fans patiently waited over a year for the next Lassie release, just content to know that the band was active and writing songs. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, the band again announced to fans that it was no more. But, instead of leaving fans hanging in the glow of their anti-climactic wait, the band has just released, as a farewell to fans, a spectacular two-disc set called Through and Through. Named after a song on El Dorado, Through and Through not only features two out of print releases from The Lassie Foundation (the gloriously messy shoegaze-pop of California and the bubblegum fuzz-pop of Pacifico), but the release also collects demos, unreleased and live tracks from all eras of the band’s history. Taken as a unit by itself, Through and Through chronicles the development of a fantastic and truly underrated band. And taken in the context of the farewell for fans it intends to be, Through and Through ia a thoughtful and sentimental present for long-time fans who’ve followed the band through its decade of existence.

Disc One of Through and Through begins with California. Listeners who have not had the privilege of acquainting themselves with this 5 song EP will enjoy the low-fi smattering of distorted guitars that cradle lead singer Wayne Everett’s melodic vocals. Evoking comparisons to My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Boo Radleys, California’s beautiful pop melodies surf beneath a wall of guitar noise. Following this raw yet appealing 5 song EP are the songs from another of the group’s out-of-print catalogue, the full-length Pacifico. Pacifico picks up where California leaves off, though with a decidedly more pop-oriented style. With Pacifico, The Lassie Foundation, by that time a full band (California was mainly recorded by the duo of Eric Campuzano and  Everett), allowed their catchy harmonies to step out a bit from behind the shoegaze guitars that permeated California. The result is another excellent collection of pop tunes wrapped in a shoegaze ethos. Songs like the soaring “Dive Bomber”, the campy “She’s The Coming Sun”, and arguably the finest song in the band’s whole catalogue, the majestic “El Rey” all sparkle after all of these years, and new Lassie fans will marvel at Pacifico’s grace and quality. Rounding out Disc One, the long-time fan finally savours three previously unheard treats. The first is an instrumental demo, recorded on a 4-track, during the California era. Entitled “A Linear”, this fascinating and soaring song, featuring sense layers of guitars supported by driving drums, was apparently a forerunner to “She’s The Coming Sun”, though sounding very much unlike the finished song. Following this song is “Kisses As Bounties (Original Version)”, from Pacfico, but in a different version than found on the CD. Featuring background vocals from Blake Wescott, as well as a harmonica part and subtly different arrangements, this version of the song floats majestically over Everett’s well-sung melody. For a long-time Lassie fan, this version of “Kisses As Bounties” will sound fresh, as it breathes new life into an already classic Lassie song. Finally, Disc One ends with a live-in-the-studio rendition of “She’s The Coming Sun”. This high energy version sounds like the version captured on the Lassie EP Dive Bomber, but the liner notes of Through and Through make no mention of the exact origin of this song. Still, Disc One, on its own, is an exciting collection of great Lassie Foundation songs, not counting the exemplary Disc 2.

Whereas Disc One consists mostly of previously released material, Disc Two contains mostly unreleased songs from the band’s latter years. Starting with the El Rey EP, and moving on through their spilt CD release with Duraluxe (I Duel Sioux And The Saturn Of Ale), to El Dorado, and finally Face Your Fun, The Lassie Foundation developed into more of a pop-rock band who only hinted to moments of shoegaze fuzz. With its selection of live songs, hard-to-find tracks, demos and new songs, Disc Two explores the pop aspect of the Lassie equation, with stunning success. This disc opens up with three brand new songs recorded for Through and Through, one of them “Inside Out”, a Mighty Lemon Drops cover recorded with Mighty Lemon Drops member David Newton on bass. The other two new songs, “Down On The Docks” and “Tomorrow Says Come On (Going Underground)” show the Lassies in fine form for their final studio-cut tracks, playing a rock that resembles the Jesus and Mary Chain’s latter years, infused with a Beach Boys melodic approach. Any one of these songs would shine on the radio, as would all of the tracks on Disc Two. Even the rough garage-band-quality demo of “Galaxy Girl” swaggers with its cheeky lyrics and fun melody. Other highlights include the formidable “Three Cheers For Waterloo” with its gorgeous horn parts, background vocals provided by former Lassie Foundation member Frank Lenz, two guitar solos, and dazzling vocal melodies. The hard to find 7” vinyl version of “Promise Ring” finally shows up on CD, a tad rougher but more energetic than its original CD version (on El Rey). And, “We’re The Number Ones”, a song heavy on melody and great chord progressions, previously unheard anywhere, also makes an appearance. Finally, after the studio tracks, a five song love collection rounds out Disc Two. The songs on the live portion come exclusively from the Face Your Fun era, and benefit from the energy and enthusiasm of the band. For instance, “Don’t Stop Your Heart” just shimmers with intensity as the band launches into a spirited fury behind the upfront vocals of Everett. It’s appropriate, then, that the disc also features a high quality video, accessible by computer, in the form of live concert footage of “Saturday Night”. This video gives fans one last glimpse of the band in action, as Everett struts around in a fake-tuxedo t-shirt while the band plays on.

Through and Through is often a mind-boggling and ear-caressing look at a supremely talented band throughout their career. From the shoegaze years of California, to the neo-80’s pop vibe of Face Your Fun and beyond, The Lassie Foundation consistently showed us how to party, live, dream, flirt, and yes, rock. Through and Through captures the spirit of this fascinating band, and is a fitting and classy gift to both long-time and new fans.

“Thank You, Lassie Foundation” (“I Can Be Her Man”, California)

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