Format reviewed: Digital
The high point of the 30-ish years I’ve been alive was somewhere during my early teens, when a bearded bloke with a D. Boon avatar on a forum called me a “martyr for musical understanding”. It set me down the path of trying to listen to and understand as much music as possible. But I’m not getting any younger. My tastes are starting to ossify. I’m starting to realise that most musical trends are starting to pass me by. I’m losing my edge. LUST’s Tekesima is exactly the sort of album that makes me worry about that.
But more on that later. Let’s talk about the good stuff first. Tekesima is a significant improvement over their debut EP Chingichanga. The production is light years better, for one: it’s warm and welcoming without sacrificing the clarity of the instruments or overall detail. The songwriting has also improved: gone is the somewhat disjointed “one style per track” mishmash of the EP, and in its place is a thematically and stylistically consistent collection of 12 tracks. Tekesima is the sound of a band that’s found its voice.
Tekesima trades in the fuzzy guitars of Chingichanga for a more laid-back approach. They’re still very much working within the psych-pop mould, but there’s a lot more of a 1960 flower power psych-pop thing going on. Throw a bit of post-punk and indie rock into the mix (Foals and The Auteurs come to mind), sprinkle some prog rock touches and you have Tekesima. It’s certainly a more relaxed listen, but that gives the band, and the main songwriting duo of Azfar and Faris, a chance to really stretch their legs.
It’s an album of confident, reasonably intelligent compositions. The way “Espionage” starts off in a proggy swirl before switching gears into a groovy stomp instantly impressed me. There’s also album highlight “Good to Know”, the second half of which is easily the best 2 minutes on the whole album. That guitar line in the bridge, vocal melody, everything. The first half isn’t bad either. Both of these are genuinely great songs that any band would kill to write, I’m sure. They’ve grown a lot since Chingichanga, and during Tekesima‘s best moments, they sound like a band that knows they’ve got a good thing going.
The album has its fair share of high points, whether they’re entire songs or just little segments, hooks, or melodies. “Desire” has a vocal melody that’s equal parts annoying and catchy. Opener “For U I Will” is an effective (and infectious) statement of intent. But when it’s not hitting those high points, the album leaves me with mixed emotions. Mixed emotions that may have more to do with me than the album itself, to be honest.
It’s not a straight-ahead pop album, so it’s fine that not every song immediately grabs the listener with hooks It’s perfectly acceptable to write songs that take a few listens to really burrow into your head. But, at the same time, I don’t feel like the album does enough to reward repeated listens. Sure, the melodies and hooks start seeping into you, but I don’t know, is that reward enough? I certainly didn’t feel that the time I put in to try and get to grips with the album was a revelatory experience. But maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree here. That said, it’s telling that I find it much easier to praise the album when it’s playing, but quickly start doubting whether I actually really like the album soon after I stop listening.
But, overall, I think I just about do like it. Tekesima isn’t a bad album at all. It’s pretty good. Sometimes it’s great. The playing is solid, the songwriting is above average, and they sound confident and at ease with themselves. These are all really good things. But it doesn’t really excite me. I can’t find it in me to be all that passionate about it. It’s a nice album that’s enjoyable to listen to, but that might be the problem. Is it just too nice? I don’t know.
Maybe I’m just a curmudgeonly music nerd whose core tastes were always going to stop me from loving this album. Maybe I would have loved this back in 2008. Maybe I’m just getting old. I don’t know, and that bothers me. Where does this leave me? That’s something I have to figure out on my own. Tekesima is fine, but I want to like it so much more than I do. I think it’s smarter and more classy than a lot of what’s come before it, and that’s something worth celebrating.
But, try as I might, it just doesn’t quite work for me. At least, not to the level where I want to shout its praises from the rooftops. At its best, it’s head and shoulders above most of what the band’s contemporaries are doing. But it’s not always quite that good.
Of course, an album doesn’t have to be a 10/10 home run to make it worth checking out, and Tekesima is definitely worth your time despite my issues with it. Besides, it’s not like the opinion of a jaded nerd past his prime really matters these days, right?