New Music Tuesdays: The Lucky Soul – The Great Unwanted

7 08 2007

by mr. travis

lucky soul - great unwanted

Artist: The Lucky Soul
Album: The Great Unwanted
Label: Ruffa Records
Release Date: August 7, 2007 (U.S. release)

There was a time when records like the Lucky Soul’s debut The Great Unwanted were commonplace. Sweet melodies, girl group pop, all of it sounds delightfully out of time: if it were released in the 50’s and 60’s, the heyday of Stax and Motown, this would have been just another cog in the machine, but today, in the midst of emo angst and indie apathy, it sounds almost brilliant. The London based band, led by singer Ali Howard, sounds eerily similar to the early works of the Cardigans, but where that band kept its dark lyricism secret underneath it’s pop veneer, the Lucky Soul have no such lyrical ambition, instead churning out song after song without any sense of irony or detachment, seemingly bridging the gap between groups from the past like the Ronettes to the current music scene.

Part of their charm comes from their own indie sensibilities, instead of going the route of signing to a label (major or otherwise), the group has latched onto the trend of self release, something that has worked well of late for many indie bands (such as Clap Your Hands Say Yeah) who wish to stay away from the chaos of the industry. By doing so, the Lucky Soul is able to stay true to their sound, without pandering to the current trend, and in doing this, they turn out an album that invariably sounds genuine, though one has to wonder where they can go after this record, considering that this type of girl-group pop is more akin to one or two hits than a genuine discography of increasing complexity.

Opening with the bouncy rhythms of “Add Your Light to Mine, Baby,” the band wastes no time of showing their strengths; steady, catchy numbers that your parents would probably be okay with. But, while it’s a fun number, there’s not much variation to the sound as the album rolls along. Girl group pop never had much variation when it was popular, and while some of those songs are still on the radio today, there is a reason why it eventually morphed into other forms of music. Thus, comes the problem of the Lucky Soul’s debut, all of the songs are slight variations of the opening number (with some exceptions like “My Darling, Anything” a song that feels like an outtake from a scene in Back to the Future), which in term show the limitations of the genre. There’s no discounting the band’s abilities, they play with confidence and their songs are catchy, just there’s not much here. But, sometimes that’s the point. Not every album has to have some deeper meaning, nor does every song have to hold some universal truth. On the merits of style and sound, the band hits it out of park. Those that want a little more may want to look elsewhere.

It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here. There are others that mine similar nostalgia infused territory: The aforementioned Cardigans have done so in the past. Camera Obscura is another female led group that delves into 60’s pop. The great Belle & Sebastian also made a name for themselves through reinterpreting the styles of long ago pop music to a modern audience. But, all of those bands had a dark side, keen songwriting capabilities, and they made a point not to paint themselves into a corner by making albums that had a life of their own without sounding the same song after song. The Lucky Soul, while making an album that sounds completely different from anything in the modern era, have made the mistake of making an almost-great record that ultimately fails because it all sounds too similar. There is potential here, but only if the band can push the boundaries they have created by the sound in which they pay homage to.

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