Living Wage

Living Wage
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  November 1, 2006

EQUATION: Dominic + Lucid = Jam.

I had a girlfriend once who claimed to experience actual orgasms every time Phish played “Chalkdust Torture.” Without trying to vouch for that, I can at least confirm that the song once made her pass out on her feet (it was probably the song).

This may be hyperbole, to which I can admittedly be prone, but Dominic and the Lucid have at least a couple songs likely to inspire similar reactions in certain fans. They similarly understand, at least, the tension-building dynamic, the tease-and-deliver, that jam bands especially employ to hook fans and instill total emotional investment. Over the course of the past two years, since the band announced their presence on the Portland scene with an eight-song EP, Vinyl Human, they have refined their live show to the point where nearly every local musician has an appreciation for both their building jams and their impeccable feel for song selection and show pacing.

What’s really impressive is their ability to replicate that on their debut full-length, Waging the Wage, released this past Halloween Tuesday and celebrated this weekend at the Big Easy. The disc is excellently paced, shows impressive variety in tone and composition, and generally does its best to put on a good show.

This showmanship comes at the expense of a couple tracks: Though the disc might read 12 songs, two of them, the opener and “Waiting Line (Ass Pennies),” aren’t so much songs as mood setters. Still, without the haunting melodian in “Human Race Stair Case,” there wouldn’t be such a heavy sense of deja vu with the harmonica in the finishing “45.” Just as the human eye is drawn to symmetry, everybody likes a good bookend. “Home,” like “45” and “King Will Call” a holdover from the 2004 EP, starts and finishes with a techno-style drum break from Chuck Gagne, surrounding a Coldplay-like soul-searcher built around a nifty couplet: “Home is where the heart is, she said to me/The shifting of my eyes, said, ‘I disagree, completely.’”

One thing I wasn’t fond of from the last disc was frontman Dominic Lavoie’s frequent forays into falsetto territory, also a la Chris Martin, but on “Home” and elsewhere on the new release, Lavoie uses the high register to much better effect. In the anthemic “King,” he punctuates nice phrasing, “We’ll be together/When the new spring does fall/and in the cold dead of winter ... you’ll wish the life you’d led had meant something,” with a particularly piercing effort.

Enough with the old stuff, though; on to the standouts. “Poor Boy” is an early-’90s-flavored gem, Lavoie doing his best late-career Simon LeBon and accompanying himself with nearly Flamenco guitar. The chorus pops with electricity, “It’s you poor boy, poor boy it’s you/Poor boy today, you’ll be for sure, sure/You’ll be the first one who cries.” The repetition is enough to make you feel punch drunk, but is followed quickly by a soothingly simple guitar break, mostly succeeding because of its warm tone. The jam that fills the last minute of the song is a clear crowd-pleaser and has the potential to sprawl out into half a set’s worth of material.

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