Formed in 1999, Lying in States seems incredibly aware of the mantle it’s inheriting by aligning itself with Chicago, a city that’s produced more than a fair share of the inventive guitar-driven indie rock pressed to vinyl during the last two decades.
The band’s full-length rings with that familiar Touch and Go vitality, the punch of aggressive but smart guitar work, the natural rhythm and rumble of a well-constructed musical bridge between verses.
But, as much the band owes – and pays homage – to The Windy City, they also hint at a number of acts on Most Every Night while not sounding like they are aping any one of them.
The closing half of “Vie Capital Ponk,” where scorching guitars fade to reveal carefully patterned and lilting melodies, could be pulled from Rodan’s Rusty. The album-opening title track and “Return of the Cornea” feature vocals that are vintage Fugazi but also offer interesting asides, like an unexpected keyboard line that reminds you of the edgy 60s rock of Question Mark and the Mysterians.
You can almost draw line between the down-and-out-at-closing-time acoustic sadness of “We” and the slightly more polished sentiments of Brit pop. Sections of the long-form (even at six minutes) “In All of Christendom” reveal shades of Radiohead.
References aside, though, what Lying in States seems to do best is play tightly and play loudly, as evidenced by tracks like “Tackle Me I’m on Fire.” There, guitars dart between crunchy, palm-muted figures and short bursts of punctuated sound, as Lying in States follows cues laid down by drummer Mark Benson and vocalist Ben Clarke.
While the band collectively exhibits a sharp sense of chemistry and timing, Clarke is an interesting front man, offering added dimensions to songs like the swaying “Fat Hawk” while not making the rest of the band seem like backing players merely there to produce feedback to complement his crooning.
Most Every Night, though, is far from a one-man show. Keyboardist/vocalist Jeremy Ohmes grabs his fair share of the spotlight on “Know it All,” where jazzy fills of piano surface among the angular stops and starts of the two-guitar arsenal from Fergus Kaiser and Clarke.
The rhythm section of Benson and bassist Justin Trombly shine through on “Yep,” which could make Girls Against Boys a little jealous for its ability to generate some tension through a simple bass-and-drums build-up.
What is ultimately the most refreshing detail of the record, though, is – and this may sound out-of-place – its strange and largely unspoken commercial viability.
While Lying in States could no doubt be admired by fans of countless Chicago and DC-area indie-rock acts, they have something to them – maybe it’s the songwriting, maybe it’s the recording – that would make them accessible over FM airwaves, should they make their way onto them.
In a new year, maybe anything’s possible. – Delusions of Adequacy, Dec. 29, 2003