Review Summary: "I've found that a hit record is like a stew. All the ingredients have to come together just right. Otherwise, it's just a soup."
In the 1996 film That Thing You Do!
, Tom Hanks, playing a sharp band manager in rock ‘n roll’s glory days, tells the neophyte band he’s just taken under his wing: “I don’t want any of this lover’s lament crap. I want something peppy, happy, something up-tempo. I want something snappy.” Besides being a fantastic film, That Thing You Do!
is an excellent look into the kind of fracturing effect rapid fame can do to a band whose success is predicated on a one-hit wonder – the kind of one-hit wonders that admittedly sell a ton of records, but whose generally vapid nature lend little to no longevity to the artists’ themselves. Like the Wonders themselves, Wisconsin four-piece Locksley caught the public (i.e. MTV) eye with their second album Don’t Make Me Wait
, making a fair amount in endorsement deals and television rotation. It’s perhaps telling, then, that the release of their third album finds the band still unsigned, with few long-term prospects other than residuals and the recent news that the band is delaying Be In Love
(released already in Japan) yet again. It’s hardly any fault of the band’s own – they take Mr. Hanks’ admonishment to heart again and again on their debut record and Be In Love
, making a fairly capable power-pop record that, unfortunately for Locksley, fails to distinguish itself in any way from its contemporaries or, even worse, its long-gone influences.
It’s clear from opener “Love You Too” that what you hear is, by and large, what you’re going to be getting, and don’t you expect anything more. Besides mimicking the Beatles’ classic “Love Me Do,” the band’s sprightly mix of effervescent guitars, bouncy drums, and vocalist Jesse Laz’s faux-British accent do everything in their power to take us back to the flower power days, a time when, to paraphrase another film, “people [were] still having promiscuous sex with many anonymous partners while at the same experimenting with mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment . . . smashing, baby!”
Groovy Locksley certainly are; their Beatles/Kinks/Beach Boys pastiche is in fine form on a number of songs here, particularly the ridiculously smooth and catchy “Days of Youth” and the herky-jerk sing-a-long rhythm of “The Whip.” But it seems like the drums are always about to go into double-time overdrive, that the guitars are always going to be wailing on syncopated power chords, that Laz is at any moment going to tear off his mask and reveal a time-traveling John Lennon who never made it past Beatles for Sale
and never wanted to. Namely, that everything is continually reminiscent of the kind of jangly power-pop that never bothers to delve into anything deeper than skin-deep matters. And that is largely the reason for Locksley’s inability to succeed beyond TV commercials and the occasional MTV soundtrack – hell, even the songs that call to mind other bands (the Raconteurs on “On Fire,” for example) still tell one nothing about Locksley themselves, besides the fact that they might have an unhealthy fascination with Ray Davies.
It’s this lack of identity that dooms Be In Love
from the start – no matter how pleasant the songs themselves are (and, like every ‘60s pop classic, there’s plenty of stuff to enjoy here), it just sounds like we’re listening to a carbon copy of some long-lost ‘60s artifact, one as alienated from 2010 as it is fundamentally different from anything released in 1966. As another character so aptly notes in That Thing You Do!
: “I’ve found that a hit record is like a stew. All the ingredients have to come together just right. Otherwise, it’s just a soup.” Locksley have all the ingredients they should need – note-perfect four-part harmonies, a knack for a hook, a tangible sense of joy. It’s just that they lack the right mixture, the kind that will eventually cause people to perk up and say, “hey, that’s Locksley, right?” rather than “what track off the Nuggets
compilation is this one?”