The Devil's stomp

Lost Cause Desperados are quick on the draw
By SAM PFEIFLE  |  January 13, 2010

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EXPANDING RANGE Lost Cause Desperados.

While the Lost Cause Desperados might be monickered like a bad alt-country band doing Eagles covers, they have managed to create on Desert of Broken Glass, the band's first full-length with bassist Stu Mahan and drummer Brian Higgins, as frenzied a high-plains drifter as you're ever likely to find. First and foremost, in recording themselves with help from Wally Wentzel and Jim Doherty, they have paired a spare and crisp sound with a heavy punk aesthetic to craft an aggressive album that's very listenable even if you're not a metal/hardcore fan, with each instrument discernible and lyrics that are interesting even when they're screamed (Marc Bartholomew's mastering job at Acadia likely helped there, too).

Basically, they're a hard band to peg, which is of course a good thing. With elements of punk, hardcore, metal, classic rock, and a bit of hillbilly, they manage to craft a sound that keeps you off balance in all the right ways, never letting you settle in to a single mental image of the band.

They open the album fast and searing on "Stomping of Devils," with Higgins's crisp drumming especially noticeable, filled with cymbals and not relying overly on the kick drum. Along with Nick Scala's yelled vocals — "It should be cold in here by now" — you might start thinking they're pretty pure punk, but there's a cool 2001 guitar climb from Kris Lavallee and a subtlety and reserve that should catch your attention. The title track, in the second slot, is sung with enough passion you can just about see the spittle at the corners of Scala's mouth. Mahan revs the song up like an engine, with cycling riffs that give you just enough time to breathe before dunking your head back underwater.

"Helpless" finishes the opening salvo with guitar wailing in the open and vocals that are sung the most-straight yet: "Couldn't find your lover/Couldn't find your friends/Couldn't find anything." The guitar tone is terrific, what they mean when they describe riffs as "peals." It's a defiant barn-burner: "You wanna take your shot? Go ahead and take it."

By mid-album, though, they're showing their expanded horizons. I love in "When You Sleep" the almost prudish, "Your eyes speak by the way that you make love." "Make love?" On this album? And the chaos they create in the break has an energy that's impossible to fake.

But "If This Is It" is the album's best track, even if it's just two minutes long. Showing off the band's penchant for melody (you have to listen closely for it sometimes), it's virtually pop rock, continuing themes that are often positive and uplifting: "It's so worth trying for/When you can have it all."

They return to this pop ethic on "So Say You," with terrific bass work early, quick and fast pop, a little surf, a sped-up shagadelic. Then they open it up for Higgins to drop huge fills in late. They seem to often make nods to classic-rock arrangements and leads, that whole ethos of showing off and introducing the band in stages.

Lost Cause Desperados do finally get around to showing off their country chops, too, with the aptly titled "Restless Wonder," a cow-punk piece like a manic Zeppelin "Hot Dog," complete with clip-clop percussion and a rockabilly kind of bass.

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