A nostalgia for 1990s punk sounds, an intentional lack of recording fidelity, and a good deal of straightforwardly humorous lyricism.
Lost Boy ? – Canned
Lost Boy ? get lost (pun not intended) in the noise pretty easily. Amidst the buzz surrounding bands like DIIV and Titus Andronicus, audiences failed to notice Lost Boy ? playing shows with these acts, ones to which their first album as a band rather than a solo project sometimes holds a candle. Canned, their debut for the wonderful DIY label PaperCup Music, follows last year’s Wasted EP, released on similarly excellent DIY label Exploding in Sound; it’s clear to see, then, that Lost Boy ? have a rich history in the DIY scene, but remain unknown to many a listener due to the blog buzz and internet noise that seems to constantly surround big-time acts they’ve played with. Maybe they’re called Lost Boy ? for a reason, or maybe for two; in addition to letting the clamor of others swallow them whole, Lost Boy ? drown in all manner of fuzz, low fidelity, and noise on Canned.
Not unlike fellow New York DIY stalwarts LVL UP, Lost Boy ? make music that features more than one vocalist, a nostalgia for 1990s punk sounds, an intentional lack of recording fidelity, and a good deal of straightforwardly humorous lyricism. “You were sad/in Hollywood/stuck in the sand” are Canned‘s first three lines, words delivered atop energetic percussion, frenetic guitar work, and several layers of fuzz and static. This all happens within the first ten seconds of the album, a declaration of where the band continues to head across the LP’s remaining 37 minutes. “Chew” and “Bank” are merely two of the many songs here that run with this approach, using upbeat, fuzz-drenched guitar pop to turn sad or hilarious (or sometimes both) lyrics into joyful garage rock celebrations. “Revenge Song” is particularly effective at disguising the gory details of its story in grungy, smiling instrumentation and overtly filtered vocals; it transforms a traumatic story of childhood bullying into an almost jubilant experience between Lost Boy ? and the listener. Of course, this is also partially due to how atypically blunt and comical songwriter Davy Jones’ lyrics come off: both due to his voice and his words, his description of his futile defense attempts (“I called them assholes and they would just laugh/guess I had it coming since I didn’t have a clue”) sounds funny rather than heartbreaking or infuriating.
Hell, even when Jones isn’t the Lost Boy ? member singing, his group’s songs are acutely hysterical. “Fuck This Century” and “Hemorrhage” serve as consecutive examples of this phenomenon: its vocalist is much more monotonous and deep-voiced, but he still manages to bring humor front and center. In the former song, though, the lyrics would be funny even outside Lost Boy ?’s oddly uptempo universe (“Tragic, nonetheless/I touch myself at night” precedes a proclamation of “Fuck this century!” over a ripping tidal wave of power chords), but the latter song makes a more impressive use of its vocalist. Its story isn’t inherently laughable, but the song’s dejected, almost krautrock-like vocal mannerisms’ contrast to the tune’s pop-leaning instrumentation will at least bring a smile to listeners’ faces. It’s reminiscent of earlier Parquet Courts songs, and since that group has received such an immense rush of critical praise in recent times, it can be tough to imagine that Lost Boy ? wouldn’t deserve similar treatment.
Really, the only obstacle standing between Lost Boy ? and wider success is that they’re not nearly the first group to emulate the sounds of 1990s garage punk groups ranging from Nirvana to, more obviously, Pavement. In fact, Lost Boy ? are bound to draw comparisons to Yuck, whose 2011 self-titled debut remains one of the decade’s finest retro-gazing rock records. Lost Boy ? are undeniably more witty and possibly more pop-oriented than the several peers to whom they could be compared, but it may be difficult for them to put up a fight across a full-length. Each of Canned‘s individual songs contains immense appeal, but lined up across the course of an album, it can occasionally be difficult to stay focused. The second half of “Car Wash”, which is almost certainly just the song’s first half played back in reverse, isn’t melodic or structured enough to be gripping; later in the album, “Bank” and “Deep Fried Young” can sometimes blur into each other. In general, despite the eccentricities and special features of each song, it can be troubling to absorb the album in one listen.
One possible solution to this minor problem is for Lost Boy ? to further emphasize their vocals on future records. The excessively watered-down vocals can prevent the album’s lyrics from being properly understood on the first two or three listens; that it takes a bit of time for the remarkable humor and specificity of the words to shine through can lose some listeners pretty quickly. If Lost Boy ? can ensure the impact of their lyrics, which become memorable as soon as they’re discernible, more instantly on their next many albums (they can look to Courtney Barnett for advice on how to achieve this), then they may no longer find themselves Lost, instead cultivating a fan base on par with the many acts whose shadows they’ve been living in for far too long.