Album Review: Lotus’ “Hammerstrike” a Bore

“A musical incident”, as described by JamBase writer Greg Gargulio, was released today by SCI Fidelity. Hammerstrike, Lotus‘ most recent release, is a combination of computerized beats, indie-inspired piano, and of Montreal-reminiscent vocals.

Though the album became available in stores today, fans have had digital access to it since September 25. Hammerstrike debuted in its entirety on the evening of September 24 at The Mercury Lounge in Manhattan, and all ticketholders were sent an advance release of the album the next morning.

The opening track, “Behind Midwest Storefront”, opens the album with piano reminiscent of, unexpectedly, Straylight Run. This rather flat, boring track seemingly loops a tinny, loose-fitting drum sequence over power-piano and a guitar part that could have been stolen from a Dashboard Confessional song. That track lead me to anticipate an equally uninspiring album, and I went to go make a snack. When I came back fortified to get through last 44 minutes of the album, I was pleasantly shocked. The second track, “Age of Inexperience”, has a sound much closer to that of Lotus prior.

“Bellwether”, the album’s fourth track, is my personal favorite. It is arguably the album’s strongest electronica track, made up of distorted chimes periodically interrupted by strong bass and vocals comparable only to Daft Punk’s “Technologic”. “Bellwether”‘s only lyrics, “Out with the old, in with the new/Bring no regrets, and start anew”, are fittingly placed on such a distortion-heavy track. The increasing shift towards computerized music places increasing importance on the electronic rebirth of the music industry. Not only in sales have we seen this change, with the massive decline in physical purchases resulting from the advent of iTunes and other online “stores”, but also in the actual production of music. The shift from turntables to Aperture, for djs; from bass to GarageBand, for psychedelic bands; and even from music lessons to Rock Band, for aspiring musicians, is moving at an incredible speed. As more albums are being released digitally before their physical sales begin; as more producers choose to make online prices lower than in-store; as more artists begin to bring their computers onstage with them, we will see an increase in the amount of unique music produced, as well as the frequency with which artists can release new work.

The album’s constant switching between indie/emo-inspired rock and traditional electronica is indicative of their still-formative state. Though Hammerstrike is Lotus’s third studio album, following Nomad (2004) and The Strength of Weak Ties (2006), it still bears many of the signs of a first attempt. Indecisiveness is a trademark characteristic of this album, and though strong in parts, it is overall a confused jumble of awe-inspiring beats and tired, new-wave bore-rock. The potential for greatness is evident in their live shows; Lotus only needs to figure out how to bring that energy to the studio.

Lotus began their North American tour on September 24th, and is continuing to tour through New Year’s Eve. Catch their Halloween show at Theatre of Living Arts (TLA) show in Philadelphia, or one of their NYE Run shows at the Fox Theatre in Boulder, CO.

Oh, and my Phish ticket request was turned down. It made me cry.

3 responses to “Album Review: Lotus’ “Hammerstrike” a Bore

  1. this album was a complete let down. there is a couple decent tracks, but no real stand outs imo. what happened to their awesome electronic dance inspiring sound? this whiny emo bullshit has me shaking my head in disbelief. hopefully their shows don’t suck now too. Lotus: wtf happened?

  2. it doesnt surprise me at all that a studio album by a jam band would get such negative reactions. the studio album is the wrong mode of presentation for a genre so heavily dependent on the live performance. actually, compare the studio albums with the live albums of any of the great jam bands (at your discretion i suppose, but probably including phish, the dead, umphreys, biscuits, etc). workingman’s dead is a piece of shit compared to the 1969 filmore west recordings, as is round room to slip, stitch, and pass. ultimately i think the only appropriate way to listen to jam band music is in concert, or… if you have to… with a recording of a concert.

  3. I agree with CGMT. I love lotus, they are without a doubt one of my favorite bands of all time, and when I saw them in concert in late 2008, it was jaw dropping. Lotus’s live performances are certainly as strong as ever, but I simply cannot listen to their studio recordings. I’ve tried, and I always find myself going to listen to live show recordings when I wanna hear some lotus.

    To drizL: nothing has happened to Lotus. They just aren’t meant to be in a studio, they’re meant to be on stage. They need to stop trying to record in the studio and just release their live performances as albums.

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