Sometimes a good band meets band description can be all you need to get through the door. Montreal’s Lost Love were pitched to me as Menzingers meet Jeff Rosenstock meet Weezer. That’s three different bands making up a sort of melodic alt-rock/punk Venn diagram of influences, and supposedly, in the center, overlapping, there is Lost Love and their latest album Good Luck Rassco. As luck would have it, Bomb the Music Industry! and the Menzingers are two of my favorite bands, and while I’ve never been a big Weezer guy (they’re aw-shucks factor has always been teetering on too much for me, thankyouverymuch), I have always admired Rivers Cuomo’s distinctive, sometimes heavy, always smooth, and very knowingly rock ‘n roll fretwork. From a couple words, I found myself wondering what Lost Love sounds like, so there it is—Good Luck Rassco was now an object of intrigue.
And believe it or not, it’s a sensible description. From the get-go, with “Sexting Across America,” you hear the sort of bendy lead that forces a thousand music reviewers to collectively type Weezer-esque. Chords chug, choruses are backed by more Cuomo-ish shredding, and the melodies are sugary and at least as sticky. The songs on Good Luck Rassco are filled with gang vocaled ba-bas and lyrics forged of hooks and hurt. It’s easy to see where Lose Love’s influences intersect and songs like “Gospel Tabernacle” bring the band around to something akin to hyper-competence, and even better, a unique sound. Heavy bass roils around in the background of the verse, punctuating the opening with heavy, gravelly buh-dums, juxtaposed by the pure surfy sweetness of its chorus.
“Clay Turris” is a standout on Good Luck Rassco, another bass driven track (reminiscent of some of Rosenstock’s arrangements, with heavy, thundering bass and guitars as more or less a dash of seasoning). It’s mid-tempo and catchy—defined by its sunniness as well as its self loathing with lyrics like, “You say I’m lousy when I’m drunk, but when I’m sober I feel like I’m ten years older and I’m bored.” It all comes together into something that feels honest, a little painful, and expertly constructed.
Good Luck Rassco has the nerve to end on another high note. “Burrito Kind of Guy” is the sort of fun bluesy stomper that mixes some of the earnest working-through-shit stuff with the whimsy and fun of a big-ass shout-along that goes, “Na na na na na, I need a burrito.” AJJ played a similar game back in their Jihad days with Christmas Island, but I think Lost Love might have improved on the idea here. Usually, this move signifies something. Art is full of choices, right? It’s constructed by people continuously making choice after choice after choice. So, ending an album on a note like this gives the audience a taste of punk irreverence, a middle finger to Important Albums, while also simultaneously, being kinda important. The song builds to its refrain with some great lyrical nuggets, finding a sense of humor within the tire treads of rough patches, closing the album with a sense of absurd resolution.
So—why isn’t this my album of the year? Well, it’s good. And a lot of times it’s great, but the record stops dead in its tracks at the starting line. There’s something cool about the Venn diagram of influences Lost Love have carved out for themselves, and I think at their best, they do justice to those influences while also having a sound that feels distinct. But—listen to “Sexting Across America.” Anything sound familiar? You don’t have to look far to find where you’ve heard that saccharine, rhythmic melody before; Lost Love does half the work for you by wearing their influences so prominently. For Jeff Rosenstock fans, the problem is obvious—”Sexting Across America” has lifted the verse melody from We Cool?’s “Hall of Fame.” And ss soon as I figured it out, I couldn’t unhear it. I started wondering: was this intentional? I listened to the lyrics, and heard no tip of the hat, no clever line about stolen melodies or living in the shadows of your heroes. So, the next question was: is this plagiarism?
Well, no. Probably not. And just as I can acknowledge that it was distracting—and ultimately, unfortunately, detracting—I can also acknowledge that this was probably an accident of humming melodies over a common chord progression, hearing something you like, and then moving forward too rapidly to consider where it came from. But in a band like this, nearly defined by their mish-mash of influence, a misstep like this, fairly or unfairly, highlights a dependence on what’s been done before.
Good Luck Rassco might take more hurt than it deserves for an honest mistake. Lost Love have a lot of talent going on here, a lot of great songwriting, and a pretty good feel for how an album should be put together. Eleven songs at thirty minutes is about perfect for a punk record, and each of these eleven have an individuality that prevents the album from blurring together into a sour mash of woahs, Cuomo-solos, and power chords. But, Lost Love put themselves into a box with their own Venn diagram, and a lifted melody keeps them from pushing outside of it. Good Luck Rassco is a good eleven songs of Menzingers meet Rosenstock meet Weezer, but at ten, it’d have been Lost Love’s, and better for it.