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Restorations - LP5000 (Album Review)

Tuesday, 02 October 2018 Written by Huw Baines

Photo: Emily Dubin

There comes a point in the lives of many bands when it seems like the easiest thing to do is stop. They won’t flame out in a way that’ll eventually get a chapter named after them in an oral history, or sign on for an indefinite farewell tour laced with pyro and recrimination. They’ll just stop, as though the whole endeavour simply ate itself.

A couple of years ago, Philadelphia’s Restorations arrived at something approximating this point. Their third LP was old enough that a follow up was expected - they'd previously released three in as many years - but they were between labels and staring at a weird, energy-sapping touring landscape post-2016 election. Rather than stop, they hit pause instead. They opened restaurants, went back to school, fiddled with other things.

And it’s a good thing they did. ‘LP5000’, their new record, is a vital, uplifting experience that could only have emerged from that time of deep uncertainty and frustration.

It’s a very grown up rock album, the sort that artists make when they’re done with dreaming and more concerned with how much their back hurts after a long drive in the van. It’s also about having the resolve to take stock and start over, no matter how much grey is at your temples or how terrifying it is to think about everything you have to do today.

Recorded with long-time producer Jon Low, it’s home to everything Restorations do well - squalling guitars, thunderous rhythms, Jon Loudon’s rasped hooks - but arranged in a more mannered way. A frontal attack like D, from 2013's ‘LP2’, would look out of place here, even if its constituent parts are still littered about the place. Many of the record’s peaks, in fact, are low-key moments of insight from the lyric sheet, not detours to light a fire under the gearheads.

Loudon’s weathered voice is perfect in this setting, and the stories of the people who wander in and out of shot are treated with care. Whatever conclusions they might have reached themselves, Restorations are mindful not to lecture or speak down to the listener. “I’ll tell you what you already know, can’t do this all on your own,” Loudon sings on the fabulous, anthemic opener St.. Immediately after it gutters out, Nonbeliever unfolds from patient beginnings into a skyscraper of a song: “Got a partner, for starters, and a kid on the way. Can't be doing all this dumb shit no more.”

There’s a sense throughout of the shifts in perception that happen as you age. It eventually seems like time occurs concurrently: our memories of a place or person remain one way even as they slip from us into something totally different. We’re bystanders because we can’t or won’t keep pace, and that’s frightening. “And now you can't afford to live in the town you were born in,” Loudon hollers on Remains, amid backing fit to shake arena rafters.

At only seven songs in length, and under half an hour, ‘LP5000’ is an exercise in structure and pacing as much as anything else. Its songs are weighty and intended to be received that way, but the brisk nature of the overall piece makes them feel nimble. The playing - Loudon is flanked by guitarist Dave Klyman, bassist Dan Zimmerman, drummer Jeff Myers and multi-instrumentalist Ben Pierce - adds to that idea, with a locked in rhythm section facilitating the deft navigation of outsized, sometimes boisterous music. No matter how loud things get, it never pays to overlook the details.

The penultimate song, Caretaker, is something of a perfect storm. It’s home to a ripping guitar solo that lands like a cultured jab, but also a wonderful central refrain and sentiments that lay bare the heart pumping underneath. “You've got things to talk about,” Loudon exhales. “And I do. All I talk about is you.”

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