Enough Records, 2013
Review by Kent Manthie
The first cut on Lemur’s newly released self-titled CD, “Chuck Norris” really says it all without having to say anything, really. What I mean is that at the start of the song there is a sample of a disembodied voice asking “Hey Norris, are you really as tough as you say you are?” and then after a few seconds of a surf-punk, guitar-based interlude, you hear Chuck’s voice come in and reply “Wanna find out?”, there’s a little more back & forth between them and then the song takes off – an instrumental jam that really shines. This isn’t the typical electronica sound of today, but a true indie delight – a rock-steady jam session with guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. As a reference, they have a slight similarity to Man or Astroman? with the intense vibe that their wicked instrumentals emit.
After that comes “Tsugumi”, a rambling instrumental discourse. But it’s “Iceberg” that is a real phenom: a seven minute kick in the ass of a tune; it really grabs you by the neck and doesn’t let go. The same can be said for the 8:50 “Kataphora”: it just goes on and on, but doesn’t get boring, it just keeps building and building to an intense height.
Altogether, there are 15 cuts on this eponymous CD, that run to about 83 minutes! That is a rather lengthy CD. You definitely get a great earful from this superb rocker. Other cuts that are worth mentioning are “Spikes and Nails”, “Cell’s Cleavage” and there are two cuts: “1775” and “1775 I+II” with “(The) Dust Song” in between the two. The final song is “Widmannstatten”, coming in at a little over 10 minutes.
This is a dynamite album. It stands out among many others that have come out this year. For a “Best Of 2013” list, I see mine getting longer all the time. This is definitely one album that is head and shoulders above other releases that have come out this year – including, and especially, fluff from major labels. But that should go without saying. The final cut on the album, “Widmannstatten” is a fabulous coda. At 10:18, the song is, well, “coda” isn’t really the right word for it. The song is more like a supercharged, intense, roller coaster ride that just rocks. Towards the end and also what brings this tune back to earth is a great keyboard solo, played on, what sounds like an old electric piano from the 60s. In fact, the sound reminds me of Richard Wright’s early playing in Pink Floyd, on their debut,Piper at the Gates of Dawn and the follow-up, A Saucerful of Secrets. It’s not as full-bodied as Ray Manzarek’s keyboard with The Doors, but the tinny, but really groovy playing is just perfect for this – after a long journey into outer space, we finally begin our descent and this mellow keyboard comes in and facilitates it, bringing us to the conclusion.
When we get towards the latter part of the Lemur, the instrumentals (for example, the aforementioned “1775” and “1775 I+II” get a bit more complex; some are slowed down a bit but no less intense. What it starts to sound like, though, when it gets to this point is, as opposed to the Man or Astroman? sound, is a little more like Sonic Youth and the artsy-noise rock that they are masters of. “1775 I+II” especially, at 8:40, is a guitar-heavy, slowed down but also beat-heavy meandering sort of jam that is not unlike something you might hear on a Sonic Youth album, circa 1990-96. The music just keeps building and building up, up, up to a crescendo of insanity, but a “premeditated” insanity.
Lemur is an instrumental rock band that formed in Lisbon, Portugal ten years ago (2003). They’re made up of Joao Brandao on guitar and bass, Joao Marques who also plays guitar and bass, Vasco Furtado on drums and Pedro Rodrigues who does a yeoman’s work on both the keyboards and cello (if you listen carefully, you can hear a bit of strings on a few of the tracks).
Having the two bass guitars really adds to the intensity of their music; a lot of bands have more than one guitar player, but not too many have two bass players. It adds depth to the undercurrent of the textures of the songs. These guys have really developed into a top-notch band. Being independent, being “underground”, etc., can be a double-edged sword: on one hand, you’re not chained to some corporate leech label, who exploit you for all they can and when they’re through with you they throw you to the gutter. It’s always better to be connected to an indie label – of course, some are more famous than others, some have bigger budgets, etc and are thus able to promote their acts more, etc, but the independence still reigns and they generally do not interfere with one’s creativity in the studio or elsewhere. But, when you’re on a smaller label, you have to live with the fact that you’re not going to be super-rich “rock stars”, cruising down Sunset Blvd in stretch limos and flying around the world in Gulf Stream jets, etc. But, as tempting as all that can be, it only lasts as long as your band can make the deep pockets of the corporation funding all of this more money. Once your popularity begins to wane, you get dumped and thrown under the bus to make room for the “next big thing”. At least when you stay independent you are not only given free reign over your music, but you are left alone to experiment and do your own thing, without corporate lackeys breathing down your neck, you don’t have to worry about sloppily putting together the next album in time to avoid lawsuits because of soul-selling contracts with complex clauses that no one (not even your manager) bothers to go through (unless you’re lucky enough to get a smart lawyer to guide you through the process) that call for the band to make x amount of albums in y amount of time and if that isn’t done, the vulture lawyers come after you and try to undo what you’ve thus far accomplished. Eventually, if you go that way, you wonder why the hell you got into this whole thing in the first place. Why do you think so many “rock stars” (I really HATE the use of that term – and it’s even more disgusting since it’s become a cliché, referring to anyone or anything that has mass appeal) commit suicide or at least get out of the whole corporate merry-go-round? Anyway, the best way to keep bands such as Lemur alive is through word-of-mouth and these days, what with the ubiquity of the internet and “social media” (another term I’ve come to dislike), “word-of-mouth” can now spread far and wide via outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the myriad blogs out there that are worked on by just about anyone, since anyone has the ability to do so. Also, another way to get these guys to be noticed is by touring. The more live shows they do, the more exposure they’ll get, then, from that, you get more word-of-mouth spreading. So, remember the name – LEMUR. These guys deserve to be indie stalwarts. I hope I’ve contributed to their success at least a little bit. Now it’s up to you to get their albums, find out when they’re playing near you, go see them and give them your support! -KM.