Drummers with The Cure and Siouxsie And The Banshees join forces with a whole host of star vocalists, from James Murphy to Bobby Gillespie
You may think you know what to expect from Lol Tolhurst X Budgie X Jacknife Lee (which, incidentally, is an impossibly awkward band name). As drummers in two of the most influential post-punk bands (Tolhurst in The Cure, Budgie in Siouxsie And The Banshees) of the 1980s, you may think a collaborative project between them would be heavy on Gothic soundscapes, gloomy percussion-driven instrumentals conjuring up images of driving rain, big overcoats and ’80s industrial towns.
Which isn’t actually that far from the truth, although thankfully the initial plans to make this a purely instrumental project were ditched when a whole host of star names came on board to lend guest vocals. In fact, the reference point that you may keep coming back to when listening to Los Angeles is UNKLE, James Lavelle’s alternative trip-hop act – there’s certainly a similar calibre of guest vocals, and producer and multi-instrumentalist Jacknife Lee is as adept as Lavelle in skilfully constructing the dramatic, intense electronica on which these songs are built.
There’s a touch of dramatic orchestrated pop to This Is What It Is (To Be Free), and Primal Scream lynchpin Bobby Gillespie’s drawling vocals over some laid-back synth heavy sounds inevitably bring to mind Screamadelica. It’s one of three tracks on the album that Gillespie appears on, and he makes for an excellent foil for the trio – he even makes lyrics that sometimes become hackneyed and cliched (“In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king” for example) still seem compelling with his louche delivery.
As you’d expect from Tolhurst and Budgie, there’s a lot of drums on Los Angeles. Ghosted At Home has a pulsating, clattering rhythm to it, while the intricate beats of the title track – which is LCD Soundsystem head honcho James Murphy’s first appearance, yelping that “Los Angeles eats its children, Los Angeles eats its young” over an instantly addictive glam-rock style beat – are a marvel to listen to. It’s telling that on the tracks where the drums take a bit of a back seat (such as the rather forgettable instrumental Train With No Station, featuring The Edge on guitars that are nothing like you’d hear on a U2 album), the results aren’t quite as engrossing.
The list of guest vocalists certainly lends Los Angeles a lot of depth, fleshing out songs from film soundtrack level to something more substantial. Bodies is an extraordinary five minutes, featuring the 73 year old artist turned musician Lonnie Holley (sounding for all the world like Tom Waits) showcasing his gravelly, guttural growl, while Starcrawler singer Arrow de Wilde gives the exhilarating Uh-Oh an irresistible swagger – “I’m Doris Day, I’m Elvis Presley, I’m the fucking All-American dream” runs one line inbetween screams and squealing guitars.
Although James Murphy guests on two tracks, he’s not featured on arguably the most LCD Soundsystem moment of all, We Got To Move, which begins with Bollywood-style instrumentation, before morphing into a tense, nervous cousin of LCD’s Watch The Tapes. It’s Isaac Brook from Modest Mouse taking vocals on this track, and his anxious rush of a vocal delivery elevates an already excellent song to another level. Rapper Pam Amsterdam even seems to channel Gil Scott-Heron on the surreal Travel Channel, giving an already varied album even more range.
Even at 54 minutes, Los Angeles never seems to run out of steam, and there more than enough excellent moments to hope that a second volume may be in the offering. Although hopefully with a less cumbersome band name next time around.