Lessick

Elevator

Besides being a surly, drug-addicted womanizer who ends up overdosing face down on the sidewalk, Danny Lessick is also the creation of late local Beat writer Jack Micheline. When Charles Gonzalez met Micheline through his brother, S.F. Supervisor Matt Gonzalez (who edited a collection of Micheline's poems), he was so taken with the author's wild, uncompromising attitude that he christened his band after the scribe's character. To listen to Lessick's debut, Elevator, is to hear vocalist/guitarists Gonzalez and Liz Ross attempt to inject their namesake's ethos into an unselfconsciously pop sound. While the two -- joined on the record by bassist Kenny Childers and drummer Pat Spurgeon -- don't quite achieve their goal, their songcraft is so polished you forgive the awkward moments.

"Ride the Line" kicks off the record with lush synths and a bouncing bass line, as Ross chants the title like a mantra. Even though the simplistic lyric appears to be taken from Pop Songs for Dummies, the number ends up sticking nonetheless, thanks to the plucky arrangements and Ross' rich, melancholy voice. This is how you know you're in pop country: The seemingly basic lines dance in your brain for days, the melodies flitting like moths around a halogen lamp.

But amidst this piquant fare are darker tunes that allude to Lessick's more serpentine ambitions. On "Camera" Gonzalez wails out a meditation on media-induced malaise, with vocals that echo David Bowie's languid style. On the ballad "Haunted Phrases" the confident nature of Ross' voice -- the same characteristic that makes the more poppy stuff stick -- belies the uncertainty of the lyrics. The album's last track, "Bent But Not Broken," featuring guest Micah Ballard reading a gloomy poem over a noisy musical bed, is the least catchy song -- yet even it ends with a quick flourish of melody, as if the musicians couldn't help but inject some sunshine into its shadows.

Throughout Elevator, there are distant echoes of Sonic Youth's dirty guitar work, the conversational singing of Throwing Muses, and the atmospheric rock of the aforementioned Bowie. But more than anything, Lessick is a band just beginning to find its own voice, a band that can clearly write the hell out of a pop song but hasn't quite figured out how to be more substantial. The group may not live up to its namesake's hard-nosed rep just yet, but its darkly tinged hooks show promise.

 
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