TunesDay: The Lost Patrol's epic retro-futurism

Here’s how the blurb at CD Baby puts it:

Cinematic ethereal, spaghetti western flavored retro-futuristic music with powerful female vocals. // A sweeping, cinematic, wide-screen journey that combines ethereal sound scapes with surf-tinged guitar. Perfect for those late night rides across the desert with the top down.

Uniquely original retro-futurism.

Yeah, that’s fair. But there’s a lot more to say about The Lost Patrol and their new CD, Midnight Matinee, which has quickly vaulted onto my list of likely 2008 platinum awards.

In this past week’s ArtSunday, I noted the TLP’s vast array of influences. Today I’d like to talk a little more about the music and the band, and in the process, hopefully I can convince you to wander over to their MySpace page and give them a listen.

I think I’m taken with TLP because I’m always looking for the next great new sound. Of course, there probably aren’t any truly new sounds to be had, and if there were it might not be something that would actually bear listening. So what I mean is that I’m always listening for people who have found ways of taking the sounds that have gone before, assimilating and synthesizing them, and producing something that recalls the influence without imitating it. This is what all great art does, ultimately – it stands on the shoulders of the giants who came before.

Steve Masucci, the genius behind it all, has clearly internalized the essence of a legion of great artists: Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Johnny Cash, The Cramps, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ventures, The Stranglers, Phil Spector, Julee Cruise, Cocteau Twins, Jesus and Mary Chain, Gary Numan, The Church, The Damned, The Chameleons, Dusty Springfield, The Cure, V.A.S.T., The Nightblooms, The Cult, The Beach Boys, Jerry Murad’s Harmonicats, A Flock of Seagulls, Dead Can Dance, Smashing Pumpkins, Sisters of Mercy, The Shadows, Al Caiola, Jack Nitzsche, Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, The Verve, Jean Michel Jarre, Duane Eddy, Andy Williams, Angelo Badalamenti, Allison Krause & Union Station, Mazzy Star, Tarnation, The Catherine Wheel, The Sundays, Sigur Rós, Echo and The Bunnymen, Medieval Baebes, Aimee Mann, Miranda Sex Garden, The Shaggs, Joanna Newsom, Goldfrapp, X, Kate Bush, Lovespirals, Abby Travis, Curve.

And while their listed influences don’t include U2, I can’t help thinking I hear echoes of The Edge’s Achtung, Baby guitar sound in there, as well. Also, as noted in that Sunday column, Masucci’s songs pay homage to auteurs like David Lynch, Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch, Wes Andersen, Sergio Leone and John Waters.

So if you imagine Midnight Matinee as Duane Eddy teaming up with Hope Sandoval, Jon Crosby and The Church to do a soundtrack for a new David Lynch Western Gothic epic starring Johnny Depp and a wrung-out Elisabeth Shue, with powerful supporting turns from Zooey Deschanel and Javier Bardem, you’re probably more or less on the right track.

Still, being able to imagine this in my head doesn’t help me label it for you. In truth, I have a hard time pegging what genre, exactly, the band is working. Its aching, cinematic beauty, bespeaking a loneliness bigger than the Wyoming sky at dusk, argues for a spot on the fringes of Goth. The reverberating twang of Masucci’s guitars reminds me not of Country, but of traditional Western (and here feel free to think about a more lyrically melodic counterpoint to Munly or Slim Cessna). While it’s not industrial by any stretch, it’s right at home on a playlist with bands like Fiction 8 and The Birthday Massacre. Fans of DreamPop and Shoegazer bands will have no problem at all slotting it alongside Lush, Catherine Wheel, the late great Space Team Electra, early Verve, or even Asobi Seksu, Blonde Redhead, Jets Overhead, LoveLikeFire, The Raveonettes and Slowdive. And I think somebody needs to put “Blue Lullabies” in the soundtrack of a surfing flick.

All of which, I guess, makes it “indie.”

The accomplishment of Midnight Matinee is even greater when we realize that shortly after last year’s spectacular Launch and Landing was released, singer Danielle Kimak Stauss left the band. Danielle was born to sing Masucci’s songs, and I wasn’t terribly optimistic about their ability to replace her. But Mollie Israel has stepped in nicely, to say the least. The two women are similar vocalists in a lot of ways, but I’ve decided that Israel projects a slightly airier quality than did Strauss, whose approach was perhaps a tad more … resonant? It took me a couple of spins to adjust, but in the end I think they’ve replaced a fantastic singer without missing a beat.

Which makes me wonder how incredible Israel will be once she’s had a couple years to really own her new place at the mic.

You’ve probably figured out by now that Midnight Matinee comes with a big thumbs up. You can sample (and buy) the entire CD at CD Baby.

7 replies »

  1. Hmmm … I’m also a big fan of Hal Hartley, Jim Jarmusch, and John Waters … but I don’t hear any of that in the Lost Patrol. I hear the Cocteau Twins, Mazzy Star, and maybe even some early Jesus & Mary Chain. Maybe I’m showing my age, but they’re one of those bands that I don’t care if they do anything different on their new album … just so long as there is a new album. I haven’t received my copy of the new disc yet, but it’ll be hard to top last year’s Launch and Landing.

    They make me want to give up my keyboards and go back to guitar full time! Thank you for giving them props!

  2. Stephen Masucci actually has 2 songs in 2 Hal Hartley films: ‘Waking Up’ by Miss Crabtree from the ‘Book of Life’ soundtrack, and ‘Paris is Waiting’ by Lost, Lonely & Viscious from the ‘Flirt’ soundtrack.