From the opening moments of Pictures there are the ringing guitar chords that have become a staple of the combo's sound, so you have no doubts who you're listening to. But where their first disk Rentacrowd (still my favorite LP3 song) abounds with punk like rough edges and garagey fuzziness, this latest album shines like a freshly polished piece of crystal. Their second album, Chinese Burn, kept up the frantic pace by pounding out 15 songs (several barely more than a minute long) in exactly 30 minutes. The band built a reputation, well-deserved, for hard-driven, tightly played, garage rock.
With Pictures their reputation is going to change -- for the better. Not that they aren't still primarily a sixties influenced, garage punk styled, power pop band. They certainly are. But, now they have a level of production and arrangement that was lacking before.
Right off the bat Pictures has a more radio friendly jangle than previous releases. There's a jauntiness to the songs with their la-la-las, Beach Boy like vocal harmoniess and overall lighter lyrical content. The rough edged garage quality is there, breaking through in full force on songs like "You Tell Lies" and "Under The Thumb". But those are balanced by songs with better nuanced songs sporting a more modern indie vibe like "Mr. Grey", "Jack in the Greens", and "The Great Omani".
Let me name check the obvious references and influences that are all still there front and center -- The Who, The Creation, The Kinks, even The Zombies. But for me two bands kept popping into my mind as I listened over and over to the album -- The Smithereens and The La's. Seriously. Check it out and let me know if you agree.