CD Review: Flashing Lights’ Sweet Release

The Flashing Lights
Sweet ReleaseWhile hardcore devotees may at first be disappointed that Matt Murphy and co seem to have given up full-fledged rocking out for their second full-length album, Sweet Release, it’s hard not to be won over by the toned-down ‘70s sound. The high-kick energy and virtuosic guitars displayed on the debut Where The Change Is have been scaled back to allow a more complex, musically complete mix to emerge — definitely more wholesome than their cavity-inducing debut.
The centerpiece, as always, is Murphy’s hypnotic vocals and rock star stage presence. This time out, though, the very-capable guys behind him have ben given more to do that just hide behind/bask in Murphy’s rock god glow. Production, courtesy of former Thrush Hermit Iam McGettigan is still among the most polished in indie-dom, as is the tight performance by all the Lights. The atmosphere on Sweet Release, however, is more relaxed than their debut’s hyper-perfection. Built largely in the studio, often around an unfinished idea, the band’s collaborative input makes for a more layered sound. The result is a lot more playing around with tempos, more prominent and varied basslines and arrangements more complex than their typical three-cord power pop. It also results in lots of kitschy falsetto backing vocals, songs that slide into each other, and extended jams spinning out to classic rock lengths. In less capable hands, it would quickly become tiresome, but Murphy’s genius for crafting melodic, listenable pop wins the day.
If there’s one thing that will disappoint Flashing Lights fans, it’s the album’s lack of a quick power pop fix — an equivalent to the frenetically catchy, sugar-coated “High School.” “Same Old Life” demonstrates the best of both worlds — sunny, bittersweet pop that benefits from the rest of the band stepping out from behind Murphy’s shadow. A low point is taking live fave “It’s Alright” and spinning it out to eight minutes — all but the die-hardest will be pressing the skip button by minute five or six. (Flashing Lights)

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