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Lemuria - The Distance Is So Big (Album Review)

Thursday, 13 June 2013 Written by Huw Baines

Lemuria are a band that inspires devotion. Whether it's Bridge Nine records breaking from their hardcore tradition to sign them, or their growing following learning every word of Alex Kerns' idiosyncratic lyrics, once you're in, you're in for good.

Their third full-length, 'The Distance Is So Big', is their second for Bridge Nine, a label more readily associated with Paint It Black, Terror, H20 and Defeater. Their decision to stick a collective neck out and release two records crammed with wistful alt-rock has proven to be more than just a pleasant diversion. It could be a masterstroke. 

If Lemuria ever decided to get out of the game, they could make a healthy living distilling and bottling the charm that courses through 'The Distance Is So Big'. Co-vocalists Kerns and Sheena Ozzella play off each other perfectly, with their off-kilter melodies welded to playful arrangements and introspective, poetic lyrics.

After Michael and Stephen Moon opens the record with 47 seconds of atonal chanting, things pick up with Brilliant Dancer, a track that has been doing the rounds for a while.

Kerns and Ozzella trade lines in a quirky melody while Kerns works wonders from behind the kit, switching up time signatures to drag the song away from safe ground. A sudden half-time drop 30 seconds from the end brings another layer of melody and casts the band as an indie-rock Kid Dynamite.

On Clay Baby, Kerns takes the lead and recalls John K. Samson of the Weakerthans over snappy drums and palm-muted guitars, while Scienceless finds Ozzella's easy vocals paired with staccato rhythms and a Pixies-influenced, catchy-as-hell guitar line. It's here that the production of J.Robbins, who also worked with the band on 2011's 'Pebble', comes to the fore, particularly as Kerns' hyperactive beats begin to recall Jawbox and Burning Airlines.

Having presided over Hostage Calm's wonderful 'Please Remain Calm' in 2012, where he found the perfect middle-ground between the band's punk roots and the pop sheen of their recession anthems, Robbins has again managed to build a sonic platform from which Lemuria's scuzzy pop gems can shine.

On Paint The Youth, the band occupy similarly melancholy ground to the New Lows on last year's superb 'I Couldn't Sleep', and Ozzella nails the delivery of some of the record's best lyrics. “Fans of Shakespeare never clap,” she sings. “For spear holder #2, who stands behind the hero because nobody handed him the clue, that it is never too late to be what you might have been.”

Dream Eater and Oahu, Hawaii – dominated by the appearance of the album name among its lyrics – are mellow little pieces and provide a fine bridge to the closers. A particular highlight is the mournful Congratulations Sex, on which Ozzella shines and Kerns' words are particularly eloquent. Ozzella takes over lyric duties for Ruby, a chugging, dark affair that wouldn't have been out of place on 'Pebble', a record that is very much the difficult older brother.

'The Distance Is So Big' is another collection of smart, knowing alt-rock from a band yet to put a foot wrong. Championed by punks, hardcore kids and indie types, they're going places, and if you have any sense you'll be along for the ride.


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