Welcome to the sound of grown-ass rock music.
I’m not saying that David Bazan is an old man. Nor would I say that of Jason Martin. I would say that this is what mature, adult rock music sounds like. It drives, it has edge, and like anything related to Bazan or Martin, it’s got plenty of grown-ass man in it.
It’s very important to me that Lo Tom exists. I’ve listened to Pedro the Lion and Starflyer 59 for a full two decades.
When Bazan, as Pedro the Lion, released Control, I listened to it all day, every day, for a full two weeks straight without listening to a single other song by any other artist. It was everything.
When Martin, as Starflyer 59, released Americana, it time-stamped my youth in such a profound way that even listening to the album today makes me feel the same way I did 20 years ago when I longed for summer and traveled exclusively by skateboard.
Speaking of Americana, I want to be very upfront about this. A recent review of Lo Tom, which I only saw maybe a couple sentences of, maybe from NPR or maybe from Pitchfork, called Lo Tom a “stripped-down Americana.” I need to point out how that lazy imagining is both completely inaccurate and does a disservice to both Americana and Lo Tom.
I don’t want to discredit Trey Many or T.W. Walsh. I had the pleasure of seeing Walsh perform, opening for Pedro the Lion – I think – about 12 years ago. I just need to be honest about my approach to this album, which is that I have loved and listened to Bazan and Martin for most of my life.
This is adult rock. You can always feel it with Bazan, in his demure, but pointed observations of the human condition. It hits you straight with a less-than-fierce rock song right off the bat. It’s fast, but only fast enough that you still recognize it as a rock song with a little extra get-up.
The second track on this album, “Overboard,” was the lead single and is the track with that infectious transcendence that players like Bazan are known to throw in at least once on every album. It’s like he wants us to make sure that we never forget him, and we won’t. The same goes for Martin. There’s at least one song on every Starflyer release that will stick with me until the day I die.
Most of the songs on this album are of the short variety. Remember, this is grown-ass rock. It is free of frills and extravagancies, just find the rhythm and the hook and then bring it home.
Only two songs on this album really stretch out after a hard day of work and take some time to soak in the rest only a good melody can bring. The first of these, “Bad Luck Charm,” has some incredible beauty to it that can take many listens to really uncover. But it did hit me right away as a familiar sound, and not from Pedro or Starflyer – it was Twothirtyeight. The song “Moving Too Far” is just one of the many perfect songs on Twothirtyeight’s cult classic, Regulate the Chemicals. The songs, “Bad Luck Charm” and “Moving Too Far,” have their own journeys, but some of the sounds of both bands are extraordinarily intersectional for this listener.
Everything on this album is an enjoyable listen from first note to the very last. And you wouldn’t expect anything less from savvy songwriting vets like this quartet. And it’s the personalities of the band members that can’t help but shine through the compositions. This is something that is self-evident in everything Bazan does. At the end of “Another Mistake,” he croons “I made another mistake, I made another-aw fuck.” It’s the perfect tongue-in-cheek punctuation on a great rock song.
You didn’t need to read anything I wrote to learn to love Lo Tom. Hopefully, you’ve found something here that confirms your love or maybe adds a different perspective to the album for you.
My favorite song from Lo Tom’s debut is probably “Find the Shrine.” If you’ve heard it, you already know why. It’s the single track that made me feel the most at home, like I was listening to something very 90s from Martin. Impeccable distortion, though not as drenching as Martin’s younger days before he was grown and understood the value of work and the passing of time.
The album closes on a grand note with the longest song on the album, and once again I’m reminded of Twothirtyeight. I love it. Lo Tom has made a short, gimmick-free album of songs that get straight to the point. These men are adults, they have lives and families and bills. They’ve got enough time to rock, but they would rather spend their precious time driving a point home instead of getting fancy with it. Now turn it up.
by Daniel Coughlin