Although they had been highly recommended to
me for months, I didn't see Atlanta band Luigi in concert until
this year's Corndog-o-rama.
I really liked their college town-esque Indie Pop at the time.
And, in the times I've seen them since, I've thought their shows
have become better and better. In fact, I'd go so far as to
say that Luigi are currently one of my favorite local live bands.
At that first show, we picked up a copy of their first release, Vamonos, which was apparently recorded nearly a year before I first saw them in concert. When I first put the album in, I immediately thought, "This isn't as good as their live shows."
But this was an unfair judgment. Upon further listens, it became
clear that the album's strongest point were quite a good reflection
of the band's talents. For instance, the first song, Heaven's
Mouth, has fuzzed out guitars played by Michelle DuBois
and Johnny McConnell which echo and give the song a rock feel
that contrasts with the more jangly part played by bassist Scott
Rowe, all the while Dubois's voice acts a high melodic counterpoint
which lightens the entire song and makes it sound less hard.
Likewise, Squeeze (I got your teeth) is a nugget of pure
Indie pop, driven by the sharp percussion of Brian Fletcher
that alternates with the jangly chords of Dubois and McConnell.
And like Heaven's Mouth, this song too becomes more musically
fuzzed out and distorted as it moves into the chorus. To me,
it sounds like a lost musical artifact from 1993, back when
the Archers of Loaf and Superchunk
dominated my musical tastes.
Certainly, the best of Luigi's songs combine the afore-mentioned
elements in order to create bouncy, hummable tunes that still
have a rocking, albeit jangly, edge. In fact, Things We Say
really brings that jangly-ness to the forefront, and is perhaps
most reminiscent of the work of Dubois's previous band, Ultrababyfat.
But the album's highlight, in my opinion, is Come Forward,
the next to last song on Vamonos. Beginning with
an almost polka-ish beat, the song sounds like a rock take on
a honky-tonk dance tune. The chorus acts as a catharsis, as
the music breaks out of the contained, measured drumbeat of
the verse. The combination is compelling and catchy, and shows
that Luigi as a whole are a really knowledgeable rock band.
However, Vamonos is by no means perfect. The
slower moments of the album, like Today and Home,
aren't as cohesive as the rockier parts. Similarly, you can
tell that the songs were recorded before they were tested live.
The musical parts aren't as self-assured as they are in concert,
and Dubois's voice is very prominent in the mix. But this tentative
quality seems to be common in Indie Rock recordings. Off the
top of my head, I can name scores of bands who recorded their
albums before they played out much. In almost all cases, the
material represented on the records was improved by the forced
crucible of the concert experience.
But this is not to underestimate the power of Vamonos.
Even at that early stage of their career, Luigi had the ability
to craft catchy tunes with hooky choruses and memorable melodies.
For instance, since I first heard the album, I've found myself
in the middle of a meeting at work humming Step Forward.
Or, Heaven's Mouth would pop into my head while I was
monitoring a server. And with this in mind, Vamonos
is certainly worth a listen, especially if you like good, jangly