The La's

The La's

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Some albums exist outside of time or place, gently floating on their own style and sensibility. Of those, the La's lone album may be the most beguiling, a record that consciously calls upon the hooks and harmonies of 1964 without seeming fussily retro, a trick that anticipated the cheerful classicism of the Brit-pop '90s. But where their sons Oasis and Blur were all too eager to carry the torch of the past, Lee Mavers and the La's exist outside of time, suggesting the '60s in their simple, tuneful, acoustic-driven arrangements but seeming modern in their open, spacy approach, sometimes as ethereal as anything coming out of the 4AD stable but brought down to earth by their lean, no-nonsense attack, almost as sinewy as any unaffected British Invasion band. But where so many guitar pop bands seem inhibited by tradition, the La's were liberated by it, using basic elements to construct their own identity, one that's propulsive and tuneful, or sweetly seductive, as it is on the band's best-known song, "There She Goes." That song is indicative of the La's material in its melodic pull; the rest of the album has a bit more muscle, whether the group is bashing out a modern-day Merseybeat on "Liberty Ship" and bouncing two-step "Doledrum," or alluding to Morrissey's elliptical phrasing on "Timeless Melody." This force gives the La's some distinction, separating them from nostalgic revivalists even as their dedication to unadorned acoustic arrangements separates them from their contemporaries, but it's this wildly willful sensibility -- so respectful of the past it can't imagine not following its own path -- that turns The La's into its own unique entity, indebted to the past and pointing toward the future, yet not belonging to either.

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