Album Review: Restorations - LP5000

How much longer will we have to endure talk about the 2016 election?

I suppose until November of 2020—until something better than all of this comes along.

I wish I cared about anything as much as people still seem to care about the results of the 2016 election—but I don’t have it within me. I don’t have it within me to continually share Facebook posts from The Other 98% or Occupy Democrats—or to find news articles about Russia and collusion, or Trumpito himself.

Like, I don’t care—you know? Things are horrible. I get it. But I wish we could talk about something else for a change.

Shortly after the outcome of the 2016 election, someone said that ‘a lot of great art’ was going to be created during this four year period of time—I guess I’m still waiting for what I could consider to be ‘great’ art, but never the less, art, as a response to our current situation, continues to be created.

LP5000, the fourth full-length from the Philadelphia-based outfit Restorations, is an example of the art being created in response to our current situation—the kind of album that is such a reflection of the times, that while it does have an immediacy and urgency to it in 2018, one has to wonder if this album will have a shelf life intended to last beyond November 2020.

I hadn’t even heard of the band Restorations until very recently, when Stereogum ran a piece about one of the songs off of LP5000—and in the write up, the band was described as a bit of an antithesis to an outfit like the Japandroids. By that, the implications were that Restorations were just as raucous, but lyrically, Jon Loudon writes less about the youthful exuberance that a band like the Japandroids are known for, and focuses more on, for lack of a better expression, grown up matters.

Musically, and lyrically, there is a lot going on within LP5000—it’s a concise set of seven songs, all of which take place within the backdrop of Trump’s America, but it’s also about the gentrification of Philadelphia, and stumbling (as best as one can) through adulthood. The band itself can be described, in short, as bombastic—the Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band influence is very apparent, right out of the gate, in just how earnest Loudon is, but throughout the record, the band also walks the line between a penchant for math rock—or at the very least, frenetic indie rock—as well as sounding, at times, like a maturing Jimmy Eat World.

There are moments where Loudon is such a dead ringer for Jim Adkins that you almost forget what album you are listening to.

Restorations waste absolutely no time in getting down to business revealing the explosive theatricality they are capable of with the rollicking, anthematic “St.” It’s probably the least overtly political song on the record, and probably the most visceral and cathartic, purely based on just how huge it sounds, as Loudon shreds his larynx over the top of waves of crunchy guitars and a pummeling rhythm.

The album switches gears quickly with the jittery groove of “Nonbeliever”—the first track on LP5000 that starts playing its political hand, as well as veering slightly into the ‘woes of adulthood’ that are peppered throughout the album. “You just refresh the news and repeat it again,” Loudon sings in the song’s first verse. “Said you’ve found the trick—just be bad at your job. If you burn all the fries, they’re gonna make you the king.”

Then, later, as the song heads towards its pensive conclusion—“I love your protest lines, Oh, but who has the time?...Got a partner for starters, and a kid on the way. Can’t be doing all this dumb shit no more.”

On “Remains,” the band seemingly borrows a soaring lead guitar riff that sounds awfully similar to “Double Dare” by Yo La Tengo—lyrically Loudon laments the changes to his beloved hometown: “One day we’ll all be condos,” he reflects. “We’ll all be gutted and clean.”

And now you can’t afford to live in the town you were born in,” he belts out within the song’s final third—“When they ask you where you’re from, you tell them the truth: you don’t know, and who does anymore?

LP5000 is structured, in a sense, to have its most overtly political material juxtaposed against the moodiest, most pensive sounding music—you can hear it as the album reaches its halfway mark on “Melt,” and again on its final track, the hopeful reservations of “Eye.” Both songs are anchored by glitchy electronics—instrumentation that the band uses sparingly, if at all, on the other songs included on the record.

“Melt” is perhaps the darkest sounding of the seven included here—borderline hypnotic in the way the stark beats are programmed in with dreamy guitar string strums, Loudon sings in a fragile, plaintive voice—“Can’t be long, just click refresh; I know you’ve been scared since November and spooked since September,” all before the song’s very clear refrain: “No, I don’t wanna hear that name again.”

Restorations continue covering this territory as the album descends into its final third—returning to that anthematic quality the opened with, they also return to the misgivings over a changing city on “The Red Door”—“Feel my pulse pickup with every building that’s built,” Loudon earnestly bellows over a kaleidoscopic keyboard sequence, snare drum rolls, and guitar chords that continue to build until they burst in the song’s refrain.

LP5000 closes with aforementioned “Eye,” which, along with “Melt,” is the most direct in its political reflections—“Glance at your phone and you mumble, ‘I hope he dies.’ Yeah, I hope he dies too,” Loudon confesses bluntly in the song’s first verse. But “Eye,” is not only about living another day in Trump’s America—it’s simply about living. This is where all the loose threads about growing up and stumbling through adulthood as best you can converge, into what is the album’s most evocative and beautifully fragmented song.

Musically, it’s really nothing like anything else on the record. Huge, open piano chords build the structure, while a skittering, electronic beat keeps the song moving forward; on top of all of it, Loudon sketches out very vivid images of a couple that is, more or less, just trying to survive life in these uncertain and volatile times—even before Trumpito was in the picture. It’s the album’s longest song by far (the album itself, it is worth nothing, is less than a half hour long), and all that tension from the opening of “Eye” does explode, without warning, in the song’s second half.

It’s also the album’s most hopeful—“We’re halfway over the bridge,” Loudon sings in the opening line. Is this metaphorical for the year 2018, or is this literal? Does this part of the song take place in a car, which is literally halfway across a bridge?

It doesn’t matter—there is hope.

In the face of all this adversity, Restorations tries to maintain a slight sense of humor. The album’s title alone is a bit of a joke (perhaps a little too inside), the cover art looks like something from a graphic novel rather than a politically charged rock record, and even some of the album’s more bluntly stated lyrics all lend themselves to not so much ‘lightening’ the mood, but trying to laugh when maybe all you want to do is cry or scream.

LP5000, more than likely, isn’t going to age well—that isn’t the point. I’m certain that making this record wasn’t about creating some kind of ‘fine vintage’—it’s about necessity. It’s poignant though, and much to my surprise, an enjoyable, accessible, and a well-produced effort.

In the song’s final, cacophonic verse, Loudon sings “I’m still spinning like a Laundromat—still treading water in the aftermath.” Like being alive, right now, in 2018, LP5000 doesn’t offer any easy answers, and there is no real, concrete resolution. In a sense, it just serves as something to provide a small amount of comfort for those who are troubled by living through Trump’s America by saying “you are not alone.”