This is the third album from the Lodger, and the third album of theirs I’ve been given the task of reviewing. I’m somehow at a loss for words. The band’s debut, Grown-Ups, impressed me with its nostalgic sensibilities, but I feared it couldn’t last. The sophomore release, Life is Sweet actually took a step further, adding actual hit single quality tracks to the jangly retro palette. Frankly, the Lodger could continue to make album after album that sound like these two and I’d be happy. But, what they seem to be doing is upping the ante with every album. Flashbacks, a title that would have been apropos on either one of the first two releases, takes the acoustic bedroom pop to another level, filling in cracks, adding horns for flavor, and stepping even further back in the time machine, making another solid effort without giving up on the organic recording methods that lend an air of credibility.
With Flashbacks, Lodger leader Bed Siddall wanted to progress past the sound of the first two albums, without, in his words, “putting on wizard hats and rollerskates.” Yeah, thankfully this didn’t turn into a Muse-like wankfest. However, one could argue how much the band has progressed. “Have a Little Faith in People” adds horns to great effect, but it is on a par with their earworm single, “The Good Old Days.” And that’s not a criticism, by any means. “Time to Wait” will equally please fans of ’80s guitar pop as it recalls Aztec Camera and Orange Juice as much as Lodger’s earlier work. In a way, the funky bassline and uptempo beat reminded me of the Blow Monkeys’ “Digging Your Scene.” The most charming thing about songs on Flashbacks is the sound of Siddall’s vocals. They are unprocessed, untreated, and at times, slightly off-key. “Time to Wait” is one example, proving that auto-tune is not necessary to make an engaging song.
“The End of the Affair” and the title track slow the tempo a bit, the latter again using horns and strings to great effect. The crescendo that crashes in at about a minute and a half is spectacular, and will most likely remind some of Blur’s “The Universal.” “Welcome to My World” is another one where the earnest vocals warm up the entire song. Some might find them difficult, but I find them to be the overall key to loving this album. Siddall’s voice is somewhere between Roddy Frame’s, Stuart Murdoch’s and Glenn Tilbrook’s. Or maybe even Ian Broudie. That’s perhaps more on the nose. Various songs could be played sans vocals, such as “Lost” and could remind listeners of other great bands, including the Smiths, but it is the combination of all the elements that make the Lodger stand out on their own merits.
The truth is, I’m the perfect target audience for the Lodger. Aztec Camera, Split Enz, Squeeze, the Smiths and the Trashcan Sinatras were some of my favorite bands growing up, and remain so today. For those who didn’t share that love, the Lodger may not have the same appeal. Listening to this album, I’ve been having flashbacks of my own. I’ve been remembering high school crushes, daydreaming sessions in my bedroom, and a time when a great song seemed to speak directly to me as a lovelorn teenager. I know there are others who share these common thoughts, and I hope that the Lodger’s Flashbacks brings as much joy to them as it did me. It seems as though this album was made just for us.
The Lightning Seeds – Cloudcuckooland
Split Enz – Time and Tide
The Trashcan Sinatras – Cake