Album Review: Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One – “Illuminator”

Album Review: Lenny Lashley’s Gang of One – “Illuminator”

The name Lenny Lashley has been synonymous with the Boston punk scene for as long as I can remember. Okay, so perhaps I ripped this sentiment from my recent interview with the man himself, but the fact remains the same.  In spite of his veteran status, Illuminator (jointly released on June 25th via Pirates Press and Panic State Records), marks Lashley’s solo full-length debut. Though rooted in the hard-working, DIY ethos that his hometown is known for, Lashley’s career-to-date has been fairly diverse, whether through his better-known blue collar punk days in Darkbuster or the alt-country twang of his Lenny And The Piss Poor Boys project. Illuminator is certainly no different, as it finds Lashley taking a page, or perhaps an entire chapter, from the Joe Strummer playbook.

Illuminator is an autobiographical collection of songs that deal primarily with the time period since he suffered a mental breakdown while on a European tour in the waning Darkbuster days. Little has been said publicly about the breakdown, but Illuminator seems to serve as Lashley’s way of exorcising those, and other, demons from the past. While the subject matter, and thus the tone, might be more serious than some of Lashley’s previous work, it is still run through the filter, and the sense of humor, or a working-class Boston born and bred punk rocker. The opening trio of songs, “Kingston,” “Hooligans,” and “White Man” are of the balanced, mid-tempo, melody-driven rock variety that Strummer perfected later in his career, most notably on the posthumous released Streetcore album.

It’s an all-too-common trap for half-assed review writers, among whom I’m admittedly the half-assiest, to refer to songwriters as wearing their hearts on their proverbial sleeves. And yet, one can’t help but identify and appreciate the amount of honesty that Lashley puts into ripping the skeletons, and their are many, from his own closet. Lashley changes the feel up pretty drastically on down-tempo tracks like “Happily,” “Anti Christ Mass Song,” and “Heavens Gate,” each song more heart-wrenching than the one before. Album closer “Recovering,” however, is the shortest and arguably the punk-rockinest tune on the album, and it finds Lashley seemingly achieving equal parts acceptance of his past faults and a proud sort comfort in his own skin.

If this writer has one bone to pick with Lashley and Illuminator, it’s that the album is too damned short. From start to all-too-early finish, the melodies catch you pretty quickly. Several times I was left with the sensation of having a song get stuck in my head before it had reached the halfway mark, only to be shoved aside by the next song in the queue. However, Lashley’s also got a brand new career as axe man in Street Dogs to study up for, so I suppose we can cut him a pass.

4.5/5 stars

If you haven’t done it already, check out our recent interview with Lenny here.

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