By Chris Powers
Buffalo, NY’s Lemuria owe a whole heck of a lot to the ‘90s indie rock tradition. The band’s fondness for the energetic slacker sounds of yesteryear manifests itself not only in Lemuria’s sound – which is marked by crunchy power chords and melodic bass runs – but also in its work ethic. Since the act’s inception in 2004, Lemuria has released numerous singles and seven inches through various independent labels, including a fabulous 2011 split with Cheap Girls for renowned punk imprint No Idea Recordings. To call Lemuria prolific would be a stretch, but the group does come off as a band constantly on the grind, seeking success the old fashioned way. This undeniably punk ethos is admirable, especially in an age where an expeditious blog post with a Souncloud link can propel a less deserving band into the indie spotlight.
But while Lemuria has supplied a plethora of abridged releases in its nine years, The Distance Is So Big is only the band’s third proper LP. This raises a few red flags surrounding Lemuria’s self-confidence. Does the band struggle to meld its brisk tunes into a concise album? Are its members intimidated by the prospect of operating in a genre that has produced such charming gems as Superchunk’s Foolish or captivating benchmarks like Jawbreaker’s Bivouac. Upon first listen to The Distance Is So Big, it’s clear that Lemuria made a concerted effort to distance themselves from its weighty, trailblazing influences. Unfortunately for the band, this amounts the album’s most significant weakness.
What stands out most in the album’s no-frills mix is the lively interplay between jaunty bass lines and rhythmic guitar leads. Often, the two instruments march together in harmony above a driving backbeat. However, they occasionally divest, resulting in clever moments like the instrumental breakdown in “Scienceless.” “Paint The Youth” features a dynamic drum pattern and subtle synth line that complements the alternating melodies of vocalists Sheena Ozzella and Alex Kerns. It is elements like these that suggest Lemuria’s true talent lies in arranging fractured pieces into crisp, free-flowing exercises. However, the band’s precise arrangements seem to sacrifice much in the way of raw power.
“Public Opinion Bath” stands alone as the only track to put a distortion pedal to good use. The song’s jagged strumming and palm muting excites and drives the song to its lyrical conclusion. “You started making your own bed/Doctors said it will help you feel less like a shithead,” Ozzella offers, exhibiting a genuinely funny lyric in a genuinely fun song.
Nothing else on The Distance Is So Big musters the playful immediacy Lemuria displays on “Public Opinion Bath.” Perhaps as an attempt to downplay their uncanny resemblance to the wave of punk-inflected indie bands that emerged throughout the ‘90s, the band sought to spiral its traditional instrumentation into erratic arrangements. While this may pique the average listener’s interest, it ultimately sacrifices the lighthearted aggression that made Lemuria’s idols so beloved in their heydays.