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A lot can happen in the span of six years. The Star Wars saga can turn interesting again. Narcissistic nutcases with ghastly hair can assume commander-in-chief roles. The Chicago Cubs can even win a championship.
And Lightouts can ambush us all with the outta-nowhere stroke of genius that is Wake, their first long-player since 2013’s Want.
Family commitments, geographic hurdles, vaporizing vocalists — all played a role in the unusually lengthy interval between Lightouts albums. Band leader Gavin Rhodes succinctly summarizes the downtime: “It sucks to say… but sometimes life gets in the way of rock ‘n’ roll.”
With the foursome — Rhodes (guitars, keyboards), Greg Nelson (lead vocals, guitars), Dean Perry (bass guitars), Josh Fleischmann (drums) — scattered these days between Brooklyn, Austin, and, uh, Peruvian Amazonia, getting the band together to lay down tracks isn’t as simple as it once was. Add day jobs, kid-raising, ayahuasca experiments, and shaman-searching to the mix, and the risk of a logistical fiasco on par with corralling a thousand feral kittens gets perilously real.
Rhodes remained undeterred during the era between Want, which landed on several influential best-of-2013 lists, and Wake. After his creative partnership with Nelson went on hiatus mid-decade, Rhodes hooked up with Dead Kennedys singer Skip Greer for 2015’s More Than Ever EP, which Rhodes released under the Lightouts name. Once Greer went back on holiday in Cambodia with his brand-name act, the stage was set for Rhodes and Nelson to reconnect and rekindle the spirit of their earlier work together. The rest is mystery.
Lightouts’ finest feat on Wake, apart from the songs themselves, is making time seem to stand still. Eight of the record’s ten tunes are brand-new — “Disappear” and “My My” have been revived and punched-up from their original single versions — but the sonic thread between Wake and Want is seamless. Even the records’ titles read like companion pieces, separated by only two letters.
But even if Lightouts’ sound remains (mostly) the same, Wake plays more concisely than the sprawling Want. The urgent pace hits early with nimbly chugging opener “Disappear” and continues on through “Celebrate,” the album’s earworm of a crescendo. Along the way, “Yes I Dü” is a Hüskertacular wig-flipper, “Make Believe” grinds gracefully midway into the record, the major chorus in “Victory” backs up the song’s big-talking title — and all three drop lyrical throwbacks to Want and its theme of weighing the true worth of certain desires within all of us. The band is tight as a Mason jar throughout, with Fleischmann and Perry locking in and careening around Rhodes’ fluidly insistent guitar lines. Atop it all, Nelson’s stirring vocals soar and dip like a hungry kingfisher, recalling a “Heroes”-era Bowie at the top of his emotive game.
A deeper listen to Wake reveals poignant September 11 recollections from a New Yorker (“Shake Your Sweet”), tempo shifts guaranteed to mess with your equilibrium (“Evil Hearted”), oblique references to seeing visions (“Wake”) and being miles away (“Lucky Strikes”), straight-up references to bailing out (“Disappear”)…there’s no shortage of connect-the-dots material to work with here.
True to its title, Wake is the sound of Lightouts’ rally from an extended nap. Or is it? Perhaps it’s a funeral bell, a signal to mourn a loss — something the striking cover art evokes. Rhodes is banking on the first interpretation: He’s on a creative tear these days, having amassed enough demos for another pair of albums, at least.
Time will tell — whether it seems to stand still or not.
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Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
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“Lightouts are everything I like about bands.” – John Richards, KEXP
“Lightouts …are enthusiastic singles makers, which suits the snappy, punk-fortified jangle-pop that they specialize in.” – Esquire
“Melding Sonic Youth’s mangled guitars and monotonic vocal sensibilities with a taut and measured rhythm section, these Brooklynites manage to tap into an ever- expanding history of blown-out guitar rock and laconic vocals without feeling like a rehashing of rock’n’roll’s recent past.”
– Colin Joyce, SPIN
“… perfect for lovers of the nu-nu-wave of ’90s-gone-feral punkos like Parquet Courts and PAWS. Check out these cloud somethings.”
– Chris Weingarten, Village Voice
10/10 Star Review: “The great thing about Want is how different it sounds from everything and not in a reactionary sort of way… They aren’t trying to sound original or better than the rest of the bands coming out of Brooklyn, they just are. Essentially Want is the kind of album that rock music was invented for.”– Tim Baker, SYFFAL
Named one of SPIN’s SXSW “Hottest Acts”
“Lightouts put the guitar back in indie rock”-The Dadada
“A Gowanus-based group that sounds a little like what JAMC might sound like with Robert Smith fronting. And if you listen real close, you’ll hear an honest to goodness guitar solo. Chain me down, Martha!”– My Old Kentucky Blog
SYFFAL – Best Albums of 2013 “While they don’t necessarily sound like I always imagined New York sounding, they don’t need to, because they are just better than everyone else. Want is probably my favorite album of 2013. It is perfection through and through.”
Atlas and the Anchor – “The propulsive post-punk of “Disappear” features dueling guitars, a strutting bass line and an arena-worthy catchiness.)”
Death and Taxes – Exclusive premiere of “Disappear” “Lightouts are a strangely-named new rock quartet from Brooklyn that remind my ears of something akin to The Shins if they played a little faster, or the Toadies if they played with more even flow to their trademarked jerky rhythms.”
The Record Stache – “It’s kind of like if Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers fronted Japandroids. Yeah, something like that. If you like to rock, turn the speakers up and jam to this one.”
Liquid Hip – “While they do pick up some tricks from the early 90s, the sound is recast to capture a fresh and spacious desolation. Disappear plays like a lonely party song — someplace packed with people but you or someone else is feeling out of place and against the wall.”
SPIN – Exclusive premiere of “Not Today” video. “The clip, filmed by frontman Gavin Rhodes, is a chill, two-minute joyride constructed from video of clouds he’s been collecting on various flights. If you remember your cirrus from your cumulus, then pop quiz, hotshot. But enough pilot talk, the song is no slouch either, a taut, musclar, jangle-fit perfect for lovers of the nu-nu-wave of ’90s-gone-feral punkos like Parquet Courts and PAWS. Check out these cloud somethings.”
SYFFAL – “It is kind of like The Talking Heads ate a shit load of pot brownies with The Replacements while watching a jam band cover Blondie. I want to punch myself in the dick repeatedly until the swelling goes down, cause this fucker is like dry humping some Razzleberry Dippin’ Dots bro bro – Baller as Fuck.”
Impose – “Brooklyn’s Lightouts are setting sites to debut their album Want March 5 and go high up, soaring in the friendly clouds on the video for their jangle-jet set guitar melodies of “Not Today.”
The Music Ninja – Exclusive premiere of “The Big Picture.” “Their latest single, ‘The Big Picture’, is a pop monster which combines the melodies and bounce of electro with the grit of rock to create something very special. Definitely a band to look out for, Lightouts have the potential to be massive. Stay tuned for more from them..”
FILTER Magazine – Exclusive premiere of “Stray Boy.”“Lightouts deliver an upbeat track that’s fit for a windows down, slow driving summer day.”
Listen Before You Buy – more “”Fine, I admit it: Lightouts are capable of sounding like The Smashing Pumpkins at their peak. Not that I ever really doubted them, of course.” “I require precisely no convincing that Lightouts are brilliant, but if you’re in any doubt then by all means check out their new single, “The Cure For Shyness”.
The Muse In Music – “‘The Eloise Suite’… is superb — a concussive, staccato, and indiscreet rock track.”
The Record Stache “Lightouts has managed to include the heartbreaking emotions of ’80s goth culture within their contemporary indie rock sound.”
FensePost – “Progressive and balanced, the band’s sound is reminiscent of 90’s alt rock and 70’s glam rock dance halls; their music just makes you feel good.”
My Old Kentucky Blog – New Band Smell – “…a Gowanus-based duo that sounds a little like what JAMC might sound like with Robert Smith fronting. And if you listen real close, you’ll hear an honest to goodness guitar solo. Chain me down, Martha!.”
RCRD LBL – “…the band’s second release, is an energized rock number – sort of The Hold Steady meets Dinosaur Jr. More than references, though, the song features some pretty serious guitar solos.”
BeaconPass – “A glorious return to nineties guitar rock… The pair exhibit a rare musical and stylistic cohesion: structured bass lines, waves of fuzzed out guitars and vaporous vocals put a new spin on the moody post-punk aesthetic of bands like Joy Division and Smashing Pumpkins circa Siamese Dream.”
Listen Before You Buy – more “So I’m grateful to Lightouts: they make me feel like I’m not more than a decade late for the parade; that good, balls-out alt. rock is still fresh and new and delightful.”
Pretty Much Amazing – more “…Lightouts are a contemporary rock band, drawing similarities to The Killers circa Sam’s Town due to vocalist Greg Nelson’s endearing falsetto and his ability to write a catchy song.”
Indie Rock Cafe – “A Gowanus-based duo, Lightouts sounds a lot like The Cure on the new track “Only The Smart Ones” (but we’re not complaining, it’s a great track) and we’re keeping our ears out for their debut album, Want.”… on “The Eloise Suite” – “Lightouts has really been gaining a following in the past year and for good reason. We originally featured Lightouts on IRC earlier this year following the release of the band’s latest album, which we like very much, and will definitely be on our Best Debuts of 2011 list.”
AudioMuffin – “The first Lightouts single, ‘See Clear’ … is an express train(!) into jaaaaaaaam city.”
Impose – “…Lightouts make tunes the way all the gods of rock used to…”
The Dadada – more more more “They are hardly conventional by today’s indie rock standards… This is a welcome return to a neglected genre. Go out and get their two singles with B-sides, and then crank up and rock out to Lightouts.”
Potholes In My Blog – “I’m fondly reminded of those glory days by Brooklyn’s Lightouts. Their style… sounds influenced by Dinosaur Jr. with its guitar-led energy and extremely catchy songwriting.”
Review Stalker more – “Somewhere there is a hi-watt amp on fire from their last gig as this guitar music bounces.” …on “The Eloise Suite” – “…the “A” side rock fire-stomper is reason enough to grab your chick and shake your hips and swill some PBRs but the real motivator that should peak your curiosity is the closer.”
Turntable Kitchen more – “And I have to admit, although the concept of a 90′s revival leaves me feeling cold, listening to Lightouts nonetheless has me warming up to the idea. Apparently nostalgia doesn’t have to be “chill” and comes in rock n’ roll flavor too.”