On their new record, Under The Water Under The Ground, Los Angeles punks Lamps play one type of music, and one type of music only: extremely loud rock music. So if you’re more of a Bon Iver person, you might find this stuff difficult to get into. The trio doesn’t offer much in the way of subtlety: just loud, distorted surf-garage jams, mixed with a healthy dose of psychedelia. They continue that approach on Under, but what they lack in variety they make up for in volume.
Literally. Within the first few seconds of opening track “Dogcatcher,” there are the salvos of a fuzz-war that will engulf the entire song—and for that matter, the entire album. Bursts of explosive noise penetrate the reverb mercilessly, threatening to tear the song asunder. Luckily, they counter the noise with plenty of tricks: the pogo-ing rhythms of “Clouds,” the choppy riffs of “Pigeon Guided Missile,” and, of course, the infectious, post-punk-y standout “Pagodas.”
A constant ebb and flow of feedback connects the 11 tracks of this 30-minute suite, sometimes making it difficult to distinguish where one jam ends and another begins. That’s part of the fun. Just like their San Francisco label mates, Thee Oh Sees, Lamps show their prowess when they’re allowed to expand a minute-long idea into a sprawling, screaming mess. The album’s longer tracks—such as “An Irrational Fear of Sailors” and “Pagodas”—do well with the extra time, building upon otherwise commonplace riffs until they’re part of some large, trippy garage-collage.
Garage rock was never known for its dynamic tension, and Under can get a little same-y sometimes. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These are some seriously tantalizing tunes and this 30-minute dose of tinnitus is enough to make any Ty Segall fan swoon. Indeed, there’s a certain kind of madness about Lamps that makes them irresistible—a love for ugly riffs, for mischievous assaults on the eardrums, a charmingly surfy side. But most of all, they’re irresistible because they’re a loud rock band. And who doesn’t love a loud rock band?