Review: Larry and His Flask’s By the Lamplight

Larry and His Flask (the name of the group, not some noteworthy on-the-go alcoholic) is a recent iteration of the whole “family band” trend that’s been sweeping through Indie and Alternative rock scene  for the last few years.. In recent years various artists like Kopecky Family Band have found a comfortable niche in music that sounds more in place on some breezy front porch in backwoods Tennessee rather than a grand concert hall, often reinforcing this aesthetic with unorthodox and folky instruments, upbeat (yet distinctly rustic) lyrics, and of course the indispensable banjo.

In their most recent album, By the Lamplight, Larry and His Flask takes this cozy little niche, embraces it to its fullest (with the banjo center stage) and then violently kicks its limitations outwards, attempting to push the boundaries of how many elements and genres can fit into that folky quaintness. The results are a rather schizophrenic sort of fantastic.

The five piece band from Oklahoma summarizes their musical style rather concisely with the first song “Pandemonium” in which they joyously and optimistically catalogue the downfall of society. The music is chaos, switching between traditional North American folk to gypsy rock and somber Spanish guitar at the drop of a hat. Instruments, motifs and even singers will appear for a quarter of a song only to disappear just as suddenly. The band almost feels as if it’s struggling against concrete definition, attacking the listeners every possible perception of what they’re listening to, and yet does so with an intense and constant sense of enjoying it.

The reason for this erratic feeling becomes apparent with the realization that almost every song has an entirely different singer and that each member of the band carries a vocalist credit in addition to a wealth of instrumental ones. And there really doesn’t seem to be a singular “lead” musician to this band, making the whole album’s cohesive sound all the more impressive. By the Lamplight really doesn’t sound like a series of songs that happen to be on the same CD or even an album; it sounds like a fully formed character, and a cartoonish one at that. The interconnecting element between each song isn’t the instruments played or the musical style, but rather the distinct personality behind it.

All in all, By the Lamplight is an extremely worthwhile listen, almost guaranteed to stick in your head for a prolonged period of time. But its real virtue is how it takes a musical style that’s altogether familiar and pushes it into something distinctive.

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