Unlike the current crop of right-wing metal hucksters and teen-dream punk upstarts clogging pop charts — whose members would be better suited opening grease factories with theirs foreheads or using their midriffs to start some sort of spare-tire business venture — the Lanternjack on Look Alive does their job.
It’s true, the Lanternjack, the most ostracized band in Detroit, are often disparaged as a tousled quartet of noisy and witless Iggy-adoring riff-merchants. But the band’s debut proves that idea to be horseshit.
Upon first listen, Laternjack could be labeled women-hating pigs, but upon closer inspection, the overall theme is self-abhorring misanthropy: Front man/lyricist Johnny Flash is really your basic idiot-hater. He loathes both men and women, scenes and scenesters, and he’s smart enough to see the absurdity in everything while personalizing it without patronization. The record’s tension rises from cartoonish toothsome menace; Flash’s stony croon is tinged with malice and his lyrics are humorously hued by unflinching gall.
Look Alive opens with the self-fulfilling prophesies of “Long Way to Ride,” a line-blurring myth/ reality rock ’n’ roll traipse. It’s a world where we can picture long drunken nights, bloated livers, porn and cheap hand-jobs blending with the nihilistic idea of buying into rock ’n’ roll as a career choice. The tune sets the disc’s tone; groove in lieu of haste, singing without screaming, tongues firmly implanted in cheeks. Luke Wood’s power chords buzz and whir, form a wall of harmonics that recall, of course, Ron Asheton (the back photo of the CD sleeve sees the band re-enacting The Stooges album cover).
Other peaks include four-chord churns “Come Around,” “Mexican Lap Dance,” and “Look Alive,” all of which find the band getting in, getting it up and getting it off with obvious debt to the Doors and the Cult. Lowlights are the two closers: “Spiders and Flies” and “Dangerville Heights” which see the band plod too long on its own template, substituting tediousness for character.
On disc, singer Johnny Flash has a voice that is curiously pleasing, and his Morrison/Iggy inspired baritone goes lengths to quash his reputation as erratic live singer at shows that too often stoop to drunken, ear-bending messes of rockist dribble.
Look Alive is filled with murky volatility and the sound of Downriver gray and dirt. The band’s flippant four-on-the-floor missive, love it or despise it, is clearly established here, and the band will either implode or get millions of American kids jacking fists.
The Laternjack will perform Friday, April 18 at the Magic Stick (4120 Woodward, Detroit) with Troubleman. For information, call 313-833-9700.
Brian Smith is the music editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].