After an 11 year period of dormancy after the release of 2006’s The Too Late Show, The Lillingtons returned earlier this year with the EP, Project 313. The four song collection not only marked their first EP since 1996 but also their last release with Red Scare Industries. Shortly after the release, the band announced they were signing with Fat Wreck Chords and already had a full-length on the way by year’s end.
While Project 313 showcased two songs that sounded like classic Lillingtons and two songs in different directions for the band, none of those songs really predicted what is on Stella Sapiente. The album is the most drastic change in sound that the band has had from one record to the next.
The album opens with what sounds like the guitar Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” over a tom-filled drum beat. It seems pretty tame until there is a flourish of electric guitars and a pick slide to signify the beginning of the verse. Over chugging palm-muted guitar, Kody Templeman sings about knights templar and praying at an ancient shrine. It is mysterious and not nearly as insouciant as previous Lillingtons fare.
The track transition seamlessly into “Insect Nightmares” which is a glimpses at the old Lillingtons that listeners get on the record. With a blistering lead guitar line over frenetic drums, Templeman sings about turning into a bug evoking images of Jeff Goldblum in The Fly. The Lillingtons make it pretty clear that this classic sound is not what Stella Sapiente is about. The next track “Night Visions” begins with heavily reverbed guitar playing arpeggios. After about 20 seconds, another guitar playing different arpeggios is added with heavy chorus effect giving the song a psychedelic surfy sound. The track constantly sounds like its about to break into all out punk at any second but it never does. It might be the first Lillingtons song ever recorded to feature no power chords.
Luckily, there are not other tracks barren of power chords but plenty of mid-tempo tracks, a couple of which draw really odd comparisons. “Villagers” first 10 seconds sounds remarkably like the opening to Reel Big Fish‘ cover of “Take on Me.” Luckily the track never brings in a horn section. Similarly, “Persuit of Pleasure” opens with a guitar arpeggio that sounds a lot like the Gin Blossoms‘ “Til I Hear It From You.”
If you had told me after The Backchannel Broadcast came out in 2001 that someday I would compare the Lillingtons to the Gin Blossoms, I would have said you were crazy but that is the tempo a large part of Stella Sapiente plays at. There are some great hooks and still some all out punk songs but this is not your youth’s Lillingtons. The band is darker, less speed oriented, in favor of building pathos through reverbed guitar lines. It is a moody record sure to garner a moody response from fans.