ListenÖ.no, listen carefullyÖ.hear that? Thatís
the sound of a man trying valiantly to be balanced.
See that man? The perplexed looking chap over thereÖthatís
the one. Thatís me.
The Translation is the debut album by indie Indianapolis
outfit (God, but they must be sick of the jokes by now) Loretta.
Full of fine songs that are well played, strong vocals and harmonies
(although lacking that rare ingredient of being exceptional
and identifiable), this album does have the distinction of being
rather splendidly produced.
The five piece Loretta are three-fifths a family affair; brothers
Jason, Damon and Jeremy Weidner handle the vocals with great
aplomb and tight harmonies, a strength common amongst singing
siblings (authorís note - donít mention the Bee GeesÖthey have
no place in this review). The Weidner's also take care of the
guitar, keyboards, and drums. The quintet is completed by guitarist/keyboardist
Stan Muller and bassist/moogist Jim Shaffer.
The opening cut, 1000 lbs, is pleasant enough with a
cacophony of guitars and percussion which meld into a strong
song. Still, even as the first lyrics burst forth from my hi-fiís
speakers, a niggle of familiarity started to coalesce in my
mind. Setting this to one side, second song The Fire
kicked off. It ended up being standard indie fare, with a pulsing
bass line and a nice overlaid guitar hook, but nevertheless
it was rather unsatisfying, given the press release's suggestion
that this was one of three on the album to pay particular attention
Track three, Slow Down, was also one of the trio recommended
the by Benchmark Records PR chaps and it is, indeed, more like
it. Sadly though, it was at this point that the aforementioned
niggling familiarity surfaced and showed it's face. As I listened
to the intro of this track. "Hmm," I mused (for I have a current
musing licence). "This is a bit Radiohead-ish." This feeling
was only reinforced by the cut, Collide, which, with
its sombre strings and piano intro and its octave-apart vocal
harmonies (a la Yorke/O'Brien), could have been lifted from
the OK Computer demo shelf. Thereís even the Radiohead-esque
"letís play with a few effects pedals and see what we get" outro.
Adonais is, possibly, the first of two tracks that the
Loretta lads should have left off the album. Messy, formless
and akin to a second-rate Norwegian Euro-rock outfit, it just
doesnít convince me as being from their usual repertoire. Iíll
wager that they donít play this live. Stolypin Neckties
(the third of the recommended triumvirate of tracks) is OK,
but not one Iíd have recommended if Iíd been on the press release
team. This sounds like another album filler. There are far stronger
songs on the disc than this, and would have better served the
whole project by being the second track to have been jettisoned.
Sinking Ships is, in my opinion, anything but. This
is a fine, uplifting, fast-paced song that betrays the mood
suggested by the title, and the Weidner brothers have voiced
it admirably. Did no-one at Benchmark listen to this when they
recommended tracks for the time-pressed reviewer? May I suggest
that someone at the company does so and revises the press release?
Another plus point for this track is that it doesnít sound like
Radiohead. The Morning After is reminiscent of (here
we go again) Radioheadís Street Spirit, although the
rhythm section is a little more syncopated than in the latter
song. Nicely constructed, but ultimately disappointing.
To The Knife is probably my favourite track, but (and
I really am trying to sound balanced here) that may well be
because it has serious overtones of Subterranean Homesick
Alien from OK Computer. Indeed, I could almost
fit the lyrics and the melody of the aforesaid Radiohead ditty
in when I sang along. The similarity leaps out and smacks the
listener between the eyes. This is a real shame, because the
Weidners turn in a great vocal performance on this song, even
if bits of it sound like Thom Yorkeís upper registers. In the
meantime, they, Muller, and Shaffer play the backing superbly.
If only they hadnít gone for the OK Computer-squeeze-down-the-EQ
behaviour at the end, they might just have got away with it.
My House and Foe continue this theme. They are
great songs, but that have far too many nods in the direction
of those wacky, zany, Oxford lads.
Oddly, where Loretta seem to crash land into their own sound
is on the hidden, bonus track which is an acoustic version (with
some assured violin backing) of The Fire. Whilst Iím
not suggesting that they should stay in this vein, the track
does allow us to hear a more original slant from the band. Even
the sparsely used electronic dickering sounds fresh and innovative.
This has been a hard review to write. I rather like The
Translation (with the exception of two tracks) and Loretta
have talent, bags of it. I also rather like Radiohead, and that
is whatís wrong here. Iíve started a regime of listening to
the material first and then reading the press releases. Benchmarkís
own PR people insist that at least one track "could have come
straight off The Bends." Indeed. And a little
more close inspection would have revealed some more striking
similarities so that I felt somewhat vindicated reading the
OK (computer), so what do we tell the good people reading this
review? Is it worth buying? Yes, definitely. Will it add to
the diversity of your music collection? If you own anything
by Radiohead or Travis, then no. If you think you should own
music like Radiohead, but have been frightened off by the music
press, then The Translation will give you an idea
of the genre.
Personally, I hope Loretta get a chance for a second album.
The evidence here is that they could and should go far, so long
as they attempt to steer towards their own niche.