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Elliot Street Lunatic: "Stories from the Void" review

In a town full of three chord punks and brash metallers, it is very difficult to find something that can even begin to be classified as "experimental". Yet, there is always a diamond or two amongst the rough punk and metal exterior. One diamond I recently discovered was Lansing's Elliot Street Lunatic (ESL) with their debut album "Stories from the Void", released on JMB Records. Combining often polar opposite genres such as 90s alt-punk with Dylan and the Beatles-era folk rock as well as the uncompromising experimental tendencies of Radiohead and Grizzly Bear, something new and exciting is born.

The band's current lineup is Jason Marr (Guitars, Vocals), Eric "E-Rock" Robins (Guitars, Vocals),
Jordan Hahn (Bass) and CJ Kjolhede (Drums, Vocals). The band employs standard rock instrumentation but employs their use in a way that doesn't feel boring or rehashed. One way this is achieved is through the guitarists use of delay effects to help create a spacey and ambient mood. On "Stars" for example, the delay is used in multiple ways, one to play an almost direct homage to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" and another to provide texture amongst the sonic assault of the song's chorus. This ambient use of the delay pedal is seen throughout the record on other songs such as "Berlin".

The punk and alternative influence is not lost on ESL, however. As on "Stars", the band can also rock out with a great ferocity not unlike a metal band, or at least a heavy alternative band. This is evident on "Another Day" where a simple melody starts the song but then builds upon itself exponentially until the explosive chorus guitars and soaring vocals take hold, then back to the hot, yet simmered verse sections. The guitar riff in the chorus as well as the breakdown and solo take much of its energy from a White Stripes-driven garage rock sound. The song then ends as quickly as it started, signaling that the band is more than just spacey ambience.

Another sound the band successfully explores is that of folk music, blended with their unique, trippy sound. "It's Perfect" displays this well...perfectly (pardon the pun). Amidst swirling feedback of an electric guitar, the vocals and the harmonies that accompany them hark back to the golden days of Dylan. The harmonies in particular draw comparisons to The Beach Boys and The Beatles.

Through all of the diverse musical ground this band treads through, from punk to folk to experimental and back to punk, the band's uniqueness shines through. Although at times it seem obvious where some of the band's sound comes from, they also are great at making the listener forget all about that with their lush harmonies and creative use of effects pedals.

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