Release Date: Mar 01, 11
Making music first in the capital of the Buckeye State, the five-piece outfit Loyal Divide left Columbus for the largest city (not capital) of the Prairie State, Chicago, where they’ve acquired the rights over the past five years to call themselves natives. Integrating the sense of both the calm and chaos of the Windy City into their experimental electronica, the quintet dashed off any possibility to be compared to notable names such as Arcade Fire and Wolf Parade, as such had happened with the earlier 2008 EP, Labrador. Pointing themselves away from the inconsistency of that first recording, but keeping themselves aligned with capturing the same audience, Loyal Divide unraveled Labrador into the band’s debut full-length, Bodice Ripper.
Starting off without any warning, in full swing it seems, Bodice Ripper entices the same kind of anxiety you may have felt the first time you saw a really artsy film or heard trance. (Or Labrador.) At first it makes you feel alien, but slowly you realize it’s all going to be okay – eventually. You’re falling down a rabbit hole the entire time, and it’s easy to lose yourself on the way.
Exotic in its anywhere-but-Chicago opening sound, you’re first mentally put in a downtown hookah bar, being led on through the dark and haziness before you. As you enter the first ten minutes of Bodice Ripper, on “Vision Vision,” the party sensation of a strobe light turns on within you as if you’re dancing in slow-motion to the stills between the light. The funk guitar under the choppy electronic scratches and steady snaps is questionably relevant. Which decade is this music?
Finally you can really move to “DDF,” starting off with a Killers-esque undertone (circa Day & Age) within the more upbeat tune. More slow-mo strobe light sensation! It’s that feeling you get when a movie ends and you’re inexplicably glad you saw it. In theatres. Opening night.
After “Near Native,” a short burst just begging to be in the next Sofia Coppola movie, the climax hits – “Baladron.” It packs the most coherent musical punch of the album, tripping you through the chorus of the nonchalant chant, “am I a killer?” and suddenly you remember you’re falling down that rabbit hole you started at 26.1 minutes ago.
From here on out, the songs rise up from the ashes of the first act, the pre-climax track listing, incorporating more liveliness and cinematic audio magic. It even reaches, in “Flights,” the state of a confused love pop ballad, complete with the sounds of nature in the background of the emotional confusion.
In a surprising refresher, surprising for its crackling serenity reminiscent of the scratchy electronic sounds previously heard, and refreshing for its vocalist, “Otto” features a female lead. Defiant lines such as “I get off on the hate” act like an answer to the prior love-sick track, even changing half-way through like any normal lover.
“Lover I Can Tell You” is the saddest of thirteen songs, for you can tell in just the opening chords that it is the last. On the upside, and the high point of all Bodice Ripper, the repetition is so relentless you lose all sense of how long you’ve been listening. The low point is that because of this, the first listen through seems like a jumbled mess, difficult to recall the sounds as individual songs.