ï¿½All your reasons beat the crap out of me,ï¿½ sings Murray A. Lightburn on ï¿½Lost in the Plot,ï¿½ the rousing, earnest first single off No Cities Left. Itï¿½s gotta be a first, the use of ï¿½crapï¿½ in a rock song where ï¿½shitï¿½ would certainly punch harder. And itï¿½s the context — the sincerity, the anthem-like quality — that makes it such a bizarre line, one that could only have been written by some weirdo genius. Think of Leonard Cohen practically whispering, ï¿½His body was gone/ but back here on the lawn/ his spirit continues to droolï¿½; or Arthur Lee beginning a song off Forever Changes by intoning, ï¿½Oh, the snot has caked against my pants/ It has turned into crystal.ï¿½ Sometimes you gotta wonder about these lyricists.
Right, Cohen and Lee are weirdo geniuses, and Iï¿½m pretty convinced Lightburn might be in that club too. For sure heï¿½s a musical genius: the long songs on No Cities Left (seven of the eleven clock in at five minutes plus) are plumped up with dynamic tempo shifts and chest-beating choruses (think of Pulp in their Different Class/This Is Hardcore heyday). The musicianship here is outstanding, and Lightburn is the guy composing all the music.
But the Dears havenï¿½t yet reconciled their pop leanings. Lightburn sings some great melodies, but too often he doesnï¿½t let them have their fair say, choosing instead to cut them short in favor of instrumental versions of those melodies, which is less interesting. Maybe, like Love or Pulp or the Beatles, Lightburn should adhere to that whole verse/chorus/verse three-minute rule thatï¿½s driven pop music since its birth.
Or maybe I just donï¿½t get his genius. Make no mistake — the recorded evidence suggests he is certainly a musical wunderkind. But it also suggests he thinks heï¿½s too smart for pop music; which, if true, would be pop musicï¿½s loss.