After working with his friend, producer Chris Walla, on Telekinesis' self-titled debut record, then recording an EP (2010’s Parallel Seismic Conspiracies) by himself, Michael Benjamin Lerner decided to go back to work with Walla on the band’s second album. While the debut had plenty of good songs, the over-stuffed and slick production sucked some of the air out of the sound. For 12 Desperate Straight Lines, the songs are still there, only this time some of the looseness of the self-produced sessions comes into play and the end result ends up being a marked improvement. The energy level is higher, the songs are catchier, and it simply feels like a more assured and exciting record. The uptempo tracks like "Please Ask for Help" and "Car Crash" jump out of the speakers in a tangle of amped-up guitars, rumbling bass, and dancefloor-ready drumbeats. Even though the mood is somewhat downcast lyrically, with a recent heartbreak being the main topic Lerner writes about, the energy rarely lags. The midtempo tracks in between the rockers have a less folky and more of a post-punk feel this time around. Some, like "Dirty Thing" and "Gotta Get It Right Now" (which sounds like a radio hit waiting to happen with its T. Rex boogie rhythms and singalong chorus), have a light-hearted pop bounce that was missing from the first album and is quite welcome here. The only songs that don‘t work are the two ballads: "50 Ways," which aims to be a big, loud cathartic song but ends up sounding dirge-like, and the overly lugubrious "Patterns." Maybe some people just aren’t cut out to be balladeers and that’s OK. Especially when, on the rest of 12 Desperate Straight Lines, Lerner proves himself to be quite adept at creating really good, very energetic and fun songs that hold together well as a complete listening experience or which could be spun off as singles, or at least indie rock mixtape staples.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra