Review by Rick Ossian
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Long Beach, California has an apparent monopoly on powerful pop-punk rock these days, and it’s in the unassuming form of a brilliant quartet named The Black Lantern. They have perhaps one of the best and brightest female vocalists off the currently crowded crop as well; her name is Wendy Faraone, and she is happily married to the band’s drummer, Jess Nason. I am convinced that fans of power pop (Big Star, Raspberries, etc.) and punk rock’s heyday (Ramones, Sluts, etc.) will become fans of The Black Lantern if they only listen! Their personnel is rounded out by an adept guitarist, Andy Prickett and an absolutely positive rock-solid bassist, Russell Crain. Some folks don’t realize how difficult it may be to pack your message into a 3-or-4-minute punch; those who are wondering should use these folks as their next listening example.
Every track here is full of piss and vinegar, especially the hard-charging punky opener, A Black Light, which weighs in at just over two minutes in length (Ramones, anyone?). It will assault your senses and remind you what it’s like to be blasted in the face with a fist full of power pop! There are choppy licks at the outset, as well as descending riffs that beg to be heard (1:35). If I were to get really heavily into my description, I would say that they are powerful and energetic. Vim and vigor aside, if you don’t have well-crafted tunes then you are going to suck anyway. Fortunately, that is NOT the case with our subjects today.
I Know You Don’t Know is another powerful vocal experience, just full of energy within and out. These folks certainly are passionate about what they do. Their conviction appears to be the order of the day, especially the vocal delivery. Not to slight the other musicians, however — each of these people are VERY good at what they do. As mentioned earlier, putting all of your ideas into a basket can be tough when you want your message to hit home in just a few minutes. You all know how I love prog; well, I love punk and pop as well as classic hard rock/heavy metal. There is lots of the punk and pop to go around here, and that suits me just fine!
5 Alarm will have you mouthing the word ‘wow’ for just a bit. At least, that’s what happened to me. On first listen, it occurs to me that fans and nubes alike will appreciate this stuff. As I am quite fond of saying, they are NOT for the feint of heart, musically speaking. You have to be able to handle stuff that has a bit of attitude to it. There are heavy drums here, but there are also sirens going off, GREAT vocal delivery from Wendy (again), no surprise there. We also get a very busy, exciting drum beat on this one. It’s no surprise that Jess and Wendy have the connection that they do, being wed in marital happy-ever-after bliss and all…I was a bit concerned when this tune first began – it reminded me of U2, of all acts! I recognized Edge’s guitar stylings straight off – then I realized that this was WAY heavier than that; just slightly reminiscent of some earlier U2. No need to be alarmed! Again, this one is short but sweet, just over 2 minutes. That is probably not the greater issue, however. The greater issue is the powerfully potent lyrics, in this case. I was particularly struck by the lines ‘Make your move/Give me something to prove’. There is some excellent jamming going on here as well (1:35). See what I mean about packing a BIG punch to your time constraints?
Bleed It Out has one of those creepy-cool guitar intros that I just ADORE. It is combined with a synth riff, of all things, but it could be worse, right? We get shifted and slammed about a bit here as well, and Wendy hollers at us; ‘What’re you waiting for?‘ There is also some killer riffing (1:15) and a phase shifter guitar solo (3:25). There are a few shouts of BLEED OUT, then a little jam at the end. Great stuff!
On Your Knees features a very cool drum intro, absolutely pounding out the rhythm. It is, again, alas, short but sweet (only a minute and a half), but a VERY potent minute and a half at the very least. There is also, again, a BIG fat vocal delivery from Wendy (‘What’s inside of you?’). Some definite wailing punky drum power here.
Anthropomancy, which is evidently a way to divine knowledge of future events by reading a dead guy’s entrails (ew), is a bit longer number for these four; damn near four-and-a-half minutes! It has a cool punky guitar riff with vocals at the outset, and some excellent riffing throughout. ‘Just give up!’, Wendy bellows at us, to the accompaniment of some serious Sabbath-style riffage (2:00). Things turn to atmospheric, psychedelic sludge towards the close, of all things, then we get a fade-out, sort of, at the end.
Helicopter includes some cool chops at the beginning, plus some great riffing and some very heavy, intense vocals (surprise!); ‘You know you can’t be right/Why do you walk away?’ Everything is Nothing features another very powerful drum intro and riffs AGAIN. Don’t these cats ever get tired of being right?
New Drug is a cover of the old Huey Lewis and the News number, but Wendy and the boys put their powerful pop/punk stamp on it and just rock the crap out of it! Wendy doesn’t just sing, she does spoken word, she yells, she screams, she really knows how to use the vocal power behind the mic. This is obviously some sort of rant, which I love. It is also a common malady amongst musicians! At the close we have some more psych, only it’s the ambient computer-style psych (PC FX, anyone?). Beep boop…
Bombs Away has more wicked drum beat(s) for us, and some killer choppy guitar FX at the outset. Sound familiar? We are getting yelled at again (thanks, Wendy!), but it’s OK, because it works. We also get some psych guitar and jazzy drums, and some sideways slide psychedelic guitar soloing (briefly). This could be a punk-style Pink or Pat Benatar, all hopped up on booze and pills or whatever they choose to indulge in…fantastic stuff! The FX (2:40) and the toy piano and the weird subdued vocal FX at the close are experimental in nature but are beginning to seem common place with this outfit. They are nothing if not eclectic.
The closing piece, Devolution, has a cool punk riff and the power/pop/punk vibe again. Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics) came to mind for some reason…There is ranting and yelling again, and a deranged Iggy-style vocal at one point, then Wendy asks us ‘Who Are You‘ about four or five times, but it’s OK, she’s just making sure we get the message. Just to make sure she hasn’t lost us, she reiterates her point and asks us ‘Where Are You?’ about four or five times. ‘Drop your shit and I’ll drop mine/You’re a legend in your own mind’. What an excellent fucking lyric!
If you didn’t get it by now, I’m pretty excited about this band. I had considered giving this recording four stars, but it’s plainly a five in my opinion. I would probably give it a five-and-a-half or a six if I could!