The first thing you’ll notice about this album, if you’re old-fashioned enough to actually go to a store and buy music, is the sticker quoting Spin, “Like Mazzy Star stumbling home from a pub crawl.”
If that interests you, then the second thing you’ll notice is the girlie-girl-with-an-attitude album art, possibly with a wink and a nod to the over-exposed redness of the album art from the band My Bloody Valentine, which leads us to the most important part: checking out the band’s music. To be sure, Giant Drag is certainly inspired by My Bloody Valentine’s over-exposed sound, employing some of the best-amped feedback and fuzz pedal this side of the new millennium.
Being in a band with a distinct sound can be a mixed blessing. The benefit is the distinction itself, because people (and you know who you are) apparently want new and distinct music. The downfall to this is those same people need to know what they’re buying and how to describe to their friends what the album is like and why it’s good.
It wouldn’t be inaccurate to value Lemona for the quality of influences it harkens back to, which also includes the Breeders more than Mazzy Star; but would this nostalgic judgment be fair to what is ultimately an excellent and original effort?
The first song, “This Isn’t It,” is an energetic and grungy escapade. Flaws are common with up-and-coming bands like Giant Drag — often, the music is great but, for example, the lyrics are pretentious or the vocals are too hidden, whiney or just too much like an icon from the past. What’s neat about Annie Hardy’s lead vocals for Giant Drag is her cool sincerity, her lack of pretension and the fact that she doesn’t sound like P.J. Harvey or Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna. This is immediately evident in “This Isn’t It,” a song which would have been wildly successful had it been released 10 years ago as an MTV “Buzz” video.
“Tired Yet,” the next song, informs listeners, with its heavy blues chords, that Giant Drag is not only tough in relation to the pop divas of the world, but tough in ways that would make the most butch rock stars jealous, all with a heavy thread of effeminately stoned-out vocals.
“Cordial Invitation” is Giant Drag’s premiere MBV sound alike, namely MBV’s “Cupid Come,” except Giant Drag’s song is played at different speeds between verse and chorus.
With only five songs clocking for a total of less than 15 minutes, Lemona is one of those appetizers that could be served as a full entrÃ©e. Hopefully, the duo known as Giant Drag, which also includes Micah Calabrese, can pack as much punch with an LP at least twice as long. That’s the kind of challenge Giant Drag’s fan base of critics wait for, the usual “what else can they do?” question for bands with international buzz.
The last song, “Jonah Ray Is AOkay (But That’s All Hearsay),” punctuates the album as the natural progression of grunge music from 1995 to 2005. In itself, the song is a showdown of attitude, especially with the initial lyrics, “Smile for Daddy, oh yeah.”