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Lemuria - Recreational Hate (Album Review)

Wednesday, 20 December 2017 Written by Huw Baines

There’s a line that pops up a few times on Lemuria’s surprise new record, ‘Recreational Hate’. It’s there on the country-tinged twang of Kicking In, and again as Marigold speeds to its conclusion: “Like something I had, but I hadn’t noticed yet.”

It’s a pretty neat summation of where the trio find themselves on the follow up to 2013’s ‘The Distance is So Big’. After several releases with well-regarded labels like Asian Man and Bridge Nine they’ve gone it alone and put this record out under their own steam, while they’ve also allowed their melodies and harmonies to counter indie-rock heft at almost every turn. It’s not like independent spirit and catchy refrains have been foreign concepts in the past, but here they’re the main event.

‘Recreational Hate’ is the most tonally varied Lemuria album, and also the most ambitious. More Tunnel, for example, is a close cousin of the chugging ‘Pebble’ highlight Wise People, but Timber Together is a sparse, beautiful opener that finds guitarist Sheena Ozzella setting out the overall change in pace over lonely backing.

Producer Chris Shaw, meanwhile, helps create a warm, welcoming atmosphere after stepping in for J. Robbins, whose style tends to be more abrasive.

The former Jawbox leader’s work on the band’s previous two LPs was built from percussion up - foregrounding Alex Kerns’ unusual patterns - but on ‘Recreational Hate’ it’s straight up pop satisfaction that underpins everything. Shaw’s is a sympathetic hand.

Upon its release several years ago, as part of the Turnstile Comix series, Christine Perfect felt like an outlier. It was far breezier than anything on ‘The Distance is So Big’ and defined by the weight behind its chorus. When repurposed here, though, it’s very much among friends.

To illustrate the point, More Tunnel, Wanting To Be Yours, Marigold and Best Extra are all fiendish, complex constructions that deliver the simplest of sugar rushes (which, if we’re honest, is good pop writing in a nutshell). Lemuria have taken a medium-sized risk by focusing so heavily on this element of their sound - doubtless some will miss the rough edges of ‘Pebble’ - but they make it work.

Risk/reward is an uneasy balance, though, and the record’s midsection leans a little too heavily on a run of slower, contemplative songs. It’s a pacing issue exacerbated by how enjoyable the bookends are, but one that doesn’t ultimately rise beyond a minor quibble.

‘Recreational Hate’ is a clever, richly enjoyable record from a band who seem happy to play the game their way from now on. It’s engineered to live or die based on the strength of its hooks and, come the final bell, it’s in rude health.

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