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Sun-ny day real estate

Loverless deliver an electrifying third album
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  December 17, 2008

OLD-FASHIONED STYLE: With modern strength and power.

In case you missed the Press Herald article: There's a vinyl renaissance under way. Yep, it started in, oh, say 1992 (Bebe Buell's "Gargoyle" single), or maybe 1999 (Spouse's "1 Marvel to DC" (red vinyl) and "Focus" (blue) singles), or maybe last year (anyone have Micah Blue Smaldone's Hither and Thither on 180-gram, as released by Tequila Sunrise?).

Or maybe vinyl never went away because it sounds so damn good.

Do you have Axis: Bold as Love or Some Girls or John Barleycorn Must Die on vinyl? God, you can feel the guitar in your pants.

It's a medium made for Loverless, the closest thing to Cream, somewhere near the apex of pure vinyl rock, Portland's ever had. The roles are a little mixed up, with guitarist Elijah Ocean on lead vocals, and Danny MacLeod on bass and Michael Anderson on drums, but the formula has many of the same parts: dirty amplifiers, great jams, a touch of prog, and an almost pathological energy that's addictive.

For me, vinyl delivers the bottom like no other medium, and Loverless's new Nothing Under the Sun rumbles and churns with bass and the bottom strings of the guitar, through cycling three- and four-note runs of thunder. Unfortunately, I've only heard it digitally so far. You can hear it, too. For a little while longer, you can download it for free, as a zipped archive of two big files representing the A and B sides of the album, at (bonus points for figuring out that URL).

You can buy it, too, if you want. At iTunes and those kinds of places. But Loverless are the kind of band who want to you to experience their music the way they want you to experience it and they're willing to sacrifice for their art. Consider it a whetting of the palate before the vinyl arrives in January — not in time for Christmas, unfortunately.

They say the disc is about a guy named Roy C. Sullivan, a Virginian who apparently survived seven lightning strikes — and then committed suicide at 83 because his girl dumped him. For me, though, it's about a relationship with a higher power. The lightning bolt has always seemed God's weapon, and when you're putting yourselves in Sullivan's shoes, it's hard not to feel a little bit persecuted. In "1942," which opens "Side A," our protagonist waxes fatalistic: "I sensed electric fire for some time from up above/And when it finally struck, I knew exactly what it was." Judging by the minor-key bounce of a glowing organ and Ocean's melodic melancholy-pop vocals, it was a spiritual experience.

They revisit this idea — "I knew someday it would come out of the clouds to strike me down" — in the "B Side" opener, "The Crown." Though it's in the "Misty Mountain Hop" slot, it plays more as "Stairway to Heaven," if it were one minute long. Guitar strings ring out like bells, a reprise and appetizer both.

Those two tracks are mostly the exception, though. Just about everything else is heavier, from the machine-gun guitars and Tolkien rock of "Out of the Woods" to the gritty, grimy blues-rock of "High and Lonesome," where a psychedelic jam breaks down into a molasses swamp the guitar must wade through in getting to its solo, churning into a white-hot anger: "I have been shown/Your heart is a stone."

The best track is probably "Down with the Viceroy, Long Live the King." It fires out of the gate after "The Crown," with aggressive guitar and muted drums heavy on the floor toms. But then comes a sax I wasn't expecting at all, from Grupo Esperanza's Adam Montminy, jazzy and quick and an interesting flavor at this point in the album. The vocals are hard to make out, a little mushy, but the great bass work in the finish, throaty and important, makes the song really hard to put away.

At just under 38 minutes, you come across it plenty as you flip from one side to the next, finishing each two-side cycle with the title track, a series of breathless all-stops interspersed with guitar-led heavy jams. "I just like the idea of dying," Ocean virtually purrs, "Cuz I want to love you forever/But without any love coming back from your end/The idea of living don't make any sense."

People, show these guys some love. Or join them in worship.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached

  Topics: Music Features , Elijah Ocean , Danny MacLeod , Michael Anderson ,  More more >
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