Free Mars

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Although some of the members of Lusk came from bands with hard rock/metal leanings (Paul D'Amour formerly of Tool, Greg Edwards from Failure), Free Mars doesn't make this fact readily apparent; in fact, it disguises it quite well. Instead, it's Brad Laner's previous work with dream pop outfit Medicine that is most indicative of the direction Lusk take on their debut album. Blending lo-fi dime store psychedelia with layered shoegazing soundscapes, Free Mars stakes out the murky sonic turf located somewhere in the midst of My Bloody Valentine, Olivia Tremor Control, and Spiritualized. This is quite evident from the outset, as the floaty, processed vocals in the verse of the lead track, "Backworlds," soon give way to sheets of noisy, effects-laden guitar that owe more than a nod to Kevin Shields. On the other hand, "Savvy Kangaroos," with its bouncy, Beatlesque piano figure, is as purely psychedelic as its cheeky title would suggest. The true highlight of the album, however, is the magnificent "Gold," featuring an unexpectedly ebullient, soaring chorus. D'Amour's former Tool bandmate, Danny Carey, sits in on drums for the riff-oriented "Kill the King," which is incidentally one of the more straightforward rock numbers on the album. The group occasionally takes a misstep or two -- the sneering vocal of "The Hotel Family Affair" seems strangely out of place -- but the album is mostly an assured, solid collection of songs. Free Mars later received a Grammy nomination for Best Recording Package (although it lost out to Titanic: Music as Heard on the Fateful Voyage).

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