Concrete City : Lovers in Love With Nothing

Concrete City Lovers in Love with Nothing review

Lovers in Love with Nothing is the debut LP from Baltimore’s Concrete City, a band who after three EPs reached a consolidation of their sound that drills down into power-pop basics with a punk edge, fashioning from this an album that feels confidently elusive in its own aesthetic setting. 

Without any discerning electronic sheen or ambience, Concrete City use a direct, and minimalist orientation in their compositions. There are no guitar tones that feel inescapable or overwhelming bass. It’s a balanced and focused work that aligns its priorities not with excess, but rather a consolidation of leanness. “Break Up the Band” sets the pace in this regard, with its key sonic profile being an errant tambourine, used sparingly but just enough to recall late ’70s and ’80s pop rock.  Frontman Mike Hall’s vocal style sounds like a love letter to Joe Strummer, a snotty refinement that carries a bend of soul behind it. But in conjunction with a backing band, carries every melody with an unusual grace.  

And on the subject of punk, “Killer Kane” feels like a song transposed from a Danzig era led Misfits b-side, a raucous horror ode sans the aggression. It’s in keeping with a tradition that goes back to Bobby Darin’s cover of “Mack the Knife,” a sort of lingering folk tradition of the macabre ratcheted up to comical exaggeration. In stark contrast, the sunny dreaminess of “Never Be Alone Again” is a stand out, its bleary, watery, easy sounding aesthetic conceals a sort of bitterness that feels lived in, with bassist Elena Fox’s backing vocals providing a drastic and needed balance. 

In the band’s continued survey of musical influences, “Seven Cities High” has a guitar lead that feels learned from Mission of Burma as much as it does The Cure circa the mid-’80s. But there’s a reason why it works when it’s executed so well. On this album, Concrete City manage to execute everything not with an inflated sense of fidelity, but with a precision and genuine adoration for just about anything that got stuck in your head and has the word “pop” near it or around it. 

Similarly, “We Could Fall in Love” feels cut from a different band nearly entirely, and that’s rarely a bad thing. It’s a display of sonic verisimilitude that’s great to hear on a debut. “Strange Bodies” might be the most accomplished track on the album, at least in terms of anthemic qualities, leaning hard into the classic paradigm of quiet/loud/quiet as if it were simple calculus. It’s a refined piece of musical real estate that embodies the band’s most powerful attributes. 

Lovers in Love With Nothing is great rock ‘n’ roll, with a lot of classic influences worn in broad fashion. But at its heart is something beautifully askew, a streak of punk, a necessity to destroy the firm order of their hooks and melodies, that bit of edge that you can’t really communicate, but can absolutely be felt.

Label: Ashtray Monument

Year: 2022

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