Despondency as an aesthetic has always lent a certain detachment to the music it imbues. Tread inches past the thin dark line first wandered by Joy Division and one risks slipping into a revivalist’s worst nightmare; all homage and obvious influence pandering without a trace of originality. When it works (see Austin ‘s I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness’ Fear Is On Our Side or Interpol’s excellently disengaged debut Turn On The Bright Lights), the resultant sound captures the glacial nostalgia carved in lost realms of some far-away resonance.
An atmospheric band from Tampa with post-rock aspirations and a generous debt owed to more than one artist from Factory Record’s roster, Windsor For The Derby revel in the reflections and ghosts of a musical style that, over the past few years anyway, has been revived nearly to the point of exhaustion (and last time I checked, The Jesus and Mary Chain is the new `it’ band everyone’s scrambling to emulate). Which is not to say that brooding, moody music culled from the most melancholic minutiae of everyday existence doesn’t still have a place among the multitudes of feel-good pop, it just has to be done right.
What WFTD master lies somewhere on a spectrum consisting of sedated Yo La Tengo B-sides and the hazy flotsam of any number of recent worshipers of Ian Curtis’ oft-pillaged legacy (Interpol, iLiKETRAiNS, etc.). The opening minutes of first track “Let Go” trudges along like a gravedigger nursing a bad leg, reaching the summit of a gradual peak of delayed tom taps and snare whacks over eerie drones before the lyrics relate a generic mantra of moving on. Minus the moribund sentiments that fall short of matching the song’s stark scene setting, it’s an audacious (if not somewhat predictable) leadoff that promises more than the rest of How We Lost actually manages to fulfill.
Palpable as overt influences are at times, what How We Lost suffers from most acutely is any sort of consistency. “Fallen Off The Earth” is, oddly enough, a cool dip into The Sea and Cake, the subdued vocals calmly copping Sam Prekop’s camber and pitch to the consonant. “Hold On” pilfers Stereolab’s trademark organ drones while “Forgotten” is an unexpected diversion on acoustic guitar and echoing vocals that seem to reverberate from within massive cathedral walls. Occasionally the wildly swinging style shifts pay off, as on instrumental “Robin Robinette,” which melts its guitars in a syrupy saturation of saccharine delay and is much too short at two and a half minutes. Measuring a slightly smaller portion of their more easily recognizable musical predecessors, Windsor For The Derby might surely stumble upon an as of yet un-looted niche to call their own, or, barring that, at least jump onto that Jesus and Mary Chain wagon before it gets driven into the ground.