Side projects rarely, if ever, reach the standards the parent bands achieve, right? It’s a common occurrence.
Take a couple of such efforts from last year for instance: The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s secondary band The Arcs produced a decent, if comparatively average, long player in Yours, Dreamily. The National’s frontman Matt Berninger also took the plunge outside of his main band when teaming up with Brent Knopf for EL VY’s début collection Return To The Moon; again occasionally great but largely indifferent.
Now, Berninger’s bandmates Scott and Bryan Devendorf are at it, along with their multi-instrumentalist touring partner, Beirut’s Ben Lanz, the band name of LNZNDRF ingeniously derived from their respective surnames – possibly better than Brybensco, though. Lanz himself names the band as Lanzandorf so there’s clearly a vowel thief at large somewhere along the line, the snky fckr.
Recorded in a church in Cincinatti in super quick time (little more than two days), the self-titled album was apparently crafted from several lengthy jams and, for those familiar with The National, it will come as no surprise that four of the eight songs here are instrumentals; with the Devendorf brothers providing the rhythm section for the famed band, there’s naturally a lot of emphasis on beats. In fact, at times it feels like they undertook a challenge to see how many variations on the classic motorik beat they could come up with.
Discounting the irrelevant one minute interlude Stars And Time, the instrumentals fare quite well. Superb instrumentals that open an album are rare indeed, but Future You begins the collection decently. After two minutes, the backbone beat kicks in and the remaining five minutes are spent occasionally building into a pumping crescendo, an ever-present pounding bass punching alongside the compelling drums. The reverb-brushed Hypno-Skate twists its motorik beat in a tribal direction to create an ear-pleasing sound, although failing to really go anywhere. Closer Samarra provides the final instrumental, another six minute effort with yet another motorik variation, this time furnished with spacey sounds amid chugging industrial noise before heading off like a steam train to its echo-laden conclusion.
The vocal tracks enjoy less success. Mt Storm crawls along in drab, falsetto furnished fashion but picks up for a better chorus that recalls The Besnard Lakes. Kind Things features bursts of wah-wah guitar alongside the (rather weak) falsetto vocals again but the chorus is bound to be among the most infuriatingly annoying that you will hear this year – too many listens might result in uncontrolled violence in the direction of your CD player/iPod etc.
Monument chuffs along to a different steam-train beat but an episode of Thomas The Tank Engine is probably more exciting. Beneath The Black Sea is, however, brilliant. Beginning like something similar to an OMD experimental track, a more propulsive beat that is almost another motorik effort drives the track, alongside much better vocals and subtle guitar touches before developing into a hugely catchy number. This is one jam you wish you could listen to for the full 30 or so minutes from which each track was initially whittled down.
With such reliance on instrumentals, LNZNDRF was always likely to be a so-so album; there aren’t many that can pull off an outstanding album containing more than one or two at most. Whilst they are mostly good cuts, the vocal tracks are disappointing in comparison (with the exception of Beneath The Black Sea); ultimately, there’s likely to be a few yawns and subsequent yearning for a new album by The National instead.