When I bought The Luxembourg’s debut 7” single, “Distant Drive,” earlier this spring, I had no idea that much of the band used to make up Sarah Records staple Aberdeen from back in the day. I simply knew that “Distant Drive” is an infectious and lovely song that perfectly fits its theme. It makes for a great song to kick off a long road trip with its insistent drum beat and repetitive guitar riff literally carrying us along for the ride. Likewise, the B-side, “Wishing Pool,” (also included on the LP in a mildly different version) captured my adoration by being simple, catchy, and dreamy all at the same time.
So, now, finally, comes their self-titled debut full length and their long shared history as professional musicians proves why this band sound so seasoned and have offered up such a rewarding and fully realized album. What is surprising is that though they share a history with the very reserved Sarah Records bands, this album takes away that beauty, but brings along a healthy dose of rock and roll edge. Any question regarding this can be dismissed by the appearance of Melvins drummer Dale Crover on the absolutely pounding and psychedelic “Drowning.” Speaking of psychedelic, this album has a few songs that harkens back to the late 80s UK indie scene where bands began to embrace at least tinges of psychedelics into their sound. It makes me think of the Mighty Lemon Drops (oh, and look, former Lemon Drop David Newtonhelped record this album!) crossed with The Heart Throbs. Check out the dreamy and trippy expanse of the opening “Dying Star” for a flashback or the atmospheric passages of “First Light,” before the power chords during the bridge.
However, it’s the wistful focused pop songs like the two from the 7” single that really have me grinning from ear to ear. The Beth Arzy fronted “She Loves to Feel the Sun” sounds exactly like an amazing lost Trembling Blue Stars song gone into overdrive (Arzy sang several songs on the last few TBS albums) and is one of the best songs I’ve heard all year! Speaking of which, the penultimate “We Go On” is also a contender for great song of the year. “We Go On” begins with a crisp build up that reminds of Cerulean eraOcean Blue, but with the beautiful voices of Betsy Moyer and Beth Arzy leading us into a fantastic timeless chorus. Both of these songs fill me with warmth and a chill as they simultaneously present great hopes and dreams and missed opportunities and longing.
Finally, the album closes with the amazing and bitter “Let it Go,” whose knowing words straddle the line between escapism (“let it go / we’re lying in the sun”) and the desire to fight against the constraints that we all live in – in order to make a living and get by in this world (“and shove you aside”), despite the potential soul sucking side effects (“swallow your pride / till you feel nothing inside”). It’s a battle that most of us fight to some degree every day, but it’s still comforting to hear an understanding voice convey the feeling atop a very tasteful tune.
This debut album by the Luxembourg Signal feels like the return of an old long lost friend. It makes me wistful for old times, bitter about what I’ve lost along the way, but thankful and hopeful for what is yet to come. Do yourself a favor and buy this album.