Loma Prieta - 'Bridges' (01:52)
This excellent screamo (aka 'skramz' in modern ironic hip-speak) album didn't get enough play for me to include it in my end of year list, and though it still probably doesn't beat out the rather different ...Who Calls So Loud album, I think it's worth highlighting, in a manner of speaking. What impresses me the most about Last City is how much it sounds like one of the most extreme 90s emo/hardcore groups, Honeywell - their discography is on the blog, here - while also fitting in with contemporary sounds and styles of screamo. It's essentially a pastiche, but a perfectly executed one, and one leading to a rather creative and original album.
Given that what the 'screamo' genre has evolved to now is a complex, intense jumble of sounds - especially very technical patterns that I'm totally incapable of discussing - emotions, and of course screams, it's probably not worth trying to a lay out a road map of where the different constituents of this album - or any other, but particularly this one - come from. If I did create one, however, it would be a complicated journey through Honeywell, and San Diego-core, into proper 'screamo', from Orchid out to Ampere, across to Japan and returning via Euro screamo and France, and into 2008 with a few more connecting flights added on. As well, there are many recent paths that don't match my tastes - Kidcrash, Off Minor - and the (separate) fact that listening to mediocre screamo becomes rapidly tiresome. Perhaps because it is still quite a specific genre, songs tend to abound in cliches drawn from a rather narrow pool, and it's easy to become disillusioned about screamo's ability to still pack a creative punch.
So by rewinding the spool of musical development back a decade or so, Loma Prieta's latest album resurrects some emo signifiers - primarily, very distorted screaming vocals and sharply pitched, almost screeching feedback - that haven't lost their contribution to musical intensity since 1995. At the same time, Last City is full of modern touches, like the melodic arpeggiated interludes between the blasts of noise, the Ampere-like attention to rhythm and heaviness, or the fuller, more epic (read:better produced) crests of the screamo sound itself. It's the interplay between these - in a sense - contrasting elements that makes the album so interesting; although it doesn't hurt that the ten songs average out at about a little over two minutes each, blasting through concentrated experimentation at attention-deficit speed yet with just enough breathing space to actually appreciate the music as a whole.
I'll wrap up with the concluding paragraph from Nick's review for Sputnikmusic.com:
"While Last City is not a genre redefining album (there are still obvious traces of Ampere and You and I here - but what better bands to rip off?), it certainly is an excellent album. Its 22-minute runtime makes good on Loma Prieta's claim that "our LP is your EP," and feels like a complete, if bite-sized unit of music. Ultimately, in a genre where recombination is being done with increasingly disappointing results, it's nice to hear a band that "gets it." Loma Prieta have produced a vital and compelling emotional hardcore album in 2008 that unabashedly invokes its predecessors while still fighting the genetic dilution that has plagued emo in recent memory."
CHUG LIFE: Loma Prieta (discography)