Hope springs eternal, and indie-rock nerds continue to believe that forming the next great power-pop outfit will eventually land them a steady girlfriend. But at least The Lampshades are trying. One of a few bands that splits its mojo between Pittsburgh and Johnstown, The Lampshades have been working at their three-minute pop ditties since 2005, making Are Alright their third disc.
You can tell they've studied the acknowledged '60s masters carefully -- many songs, such as "Girl From Another State" and "Best That I Can," feature Pet Sounds-styled multi-tracked vocals. Others pile on the occasional lapsteel (think Wilco), as well as trumpet, xylophone, squiggly New Wave synth patches and even a string quartet on "I Guess I'm Doing Just Fine."
But there's also an opposing tendency toward simplicity of expression on tracks such as "I'm So Different," which smacks of '90s indie rock from Weezer to Superchunk ("Business Card" even slouches a bit toward Nirvana). And vocalist Jaren Love has an off-kilter, bookish delivery more akin to a Stephen Malkmus or a J. Mascis than, say, any member of the Fab Four.
The CD's production prowess (it's mastered by Aloha drummer TJ Lipple) plus a bit of college-rock naïveté and a whimsical sense of humor could bode well for The Lampshades, offering a source of possible rivalry to the neo-psych-pop legacy of Athens, Ga.'s Elephant 6 collective. (I could see dudes from Elf Power, Of Montreal or Olivia Tremor Control grooving to a few of these songs.)
Onstage though, The Lampshades sound more like raw garage-pop than a group of guys who know their way around a smart melody and an ear-bending arrangement. If they can figure out how to translate more of the intricacy of what they've accomplished on Are Alright to a live setting, then there's a better chance that they'll get the response they're after -- and that girl.