Review Summary: With a debut album so great a masterpiece was not far away.
It’s hard to imagine five absolute perfectionists hording themselves in a one-bed hotel room in Chicago and cranking out one of the finest debut albums ever. Throw in constant disagreement, money shortages, and dealing with their lead vocalist’s bouts with depression and it’s hard to even comprehend how As Tall As Lions managed to finish eleven tracks much less make them some of the best pop rock 2004 had to offer.
From the get go Lafcadio buzzes with beauty as Daniel Nigro’s powerful croons bounce over arppeciated guitar riffs and jazzy bass lines. Nigro chocks every lyric full of passion and emotion and most beautifully with the album masterpiece “The Carousel”. In the chorus Nigro belts out
Hey Mother, Hey hey Mother,
why do you cry"
Tell me what the birds have said
about my father.
Hey Father, Hey hey Father,
what do you know"
Lovers on the carousel
The beauty and elegance in which he delivers each poetic line is remarkable.
Even after finishing the recording of the album Nigro and fellow band members sought to remix the entire recording with money from their own pocket showing the fervor and passion to deliver a masterpiece. The record is brilliantly crafted with ever song transitioning perfectly to the next. “Break Blossom” kick starts the album into the equally as energetic “96 Heartbeats” as the songs transition to the album’s gem: “The Carousel”. Lafcadio reaches it pinnacle with the instrumental “My Glowing Morning Dreams” building up and bursting into the climatic “Ghost in Drag”. The splashing piano in “Good Night, Noises Everywhere” is reminiscent of a soft rolling tide and a truly beautiful way to close the record.
The album bursts with experimentation evident from each flowing track to the next. “Break Blossom”, “96 Heartbeats” and “Ghost in Drag” are most in the vein of pop rock but the quintet takes the rhythm section to soaring heights on the song “Acrobat”. The song’s tempo epically builds up over acoustic guitars as Nigro sings
Do you still wish you were beautiful"
Because you will always be beautiful
Will always be beautiful
Then the song changes key lead by Sean Fitzgerald’s flowery guitar solo as the song bounces to a close. Simply beautiful.
Each member plays multiple instruments giving understanding to the strong musicianship the album displays. Heck, Daniel Nigro originally joined the band as purely a vocalist and lays down outstanding rhythm guitar on the record. And subtle atmospheric pianos and horns throughout the album add to the perfection As Tall As Lions sought with each song. The cohesiveness of the album and tight instrumentation show a band well beyond their years at the time. It’s inconceivable how a band with such tremendous obstacles created such beautiful music. Great people deal with greater demons and a record like this proves it. With a debut album so great a masterpiece was not far away.