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  Lovers, Lead the Way!
Artist: Viva Voce
Label: Amore!Phonics and Asthmatic Kitty (2003)
Length: 15 Tracks (65:23)

While the Viva Voce collective has been something of a fixture on the independent artist scene for over seven years now, Lovers, Lead the Way! is, surprisingly enough, only the second full-length release from the husband and wife duo of Kevin and Anita Robinson.  Perhaps as much as anything else, the band's particular sound remains hard to pin down.  "Fashionably Lonely"  evokes late-period Beatles with its swirling orchestral treatments and psychedelic underpinning, before taking a sharp left turn into electronic percussion-lead modern pop.  "One in Every Crowd," by comparison, is an delectable slab of lo-fi rock and roll, juxtaposing Anita Robinson's wispy, ethereal singing voice with an swaggering, grit-laden instrumental backdrop.  And "N Love W/U" sounds like nothing so much as a teenaged garage band rocker secretly saving their favorite power ballad to tape before the other group members arrive.

As adept as they are at darting between genres, the Robinsons exhibit an equally impressive skill at combining multiple styles within a given song.  The twanging, echo-laden "Red D-Lish" sprinkles Duane Eddy-styled guitar atop languishing, acoustic-driven alt-pop, making the listener wonder if perhaps the Red House Painters have secretly written the theme song to a spaghetti western.  Likewise, the best-of-album "That's Right, ... Watch Out!" gives a pretty fair idea of what a Jeff Lynn-produced early clash might have sounded like.  And "Wrecking Ball" is an unlikely, decade-hopping experiment tying psychedelic, '60s-styled vocals and guitars to a new-wave-meets-disco beat that, somehow, inexplicably, works.

Some of the group's sonic excursions - particularly those that come appended to the beginning or end of their respective songs - can come across as either gratuitous or self-indulgent.  And a fair number of Lovers' tracks could certainly have benefited from a bit of judicious trimming.  That said, the new album, taken as a whole, holds together quite nicely, thanks to the Robinsons' distinctive sonic textures, intelligently written lyrics and engaging, resolutely indie aesthetic.  On top of it all, the duo exhibits a tangible and undeniable joy at the sheer art of songwriting that blankets the entire Lovers project with an irresistible infectiousness.  In an ideal world, a much larger portion of the music would sound like this.

Bert Gangl 6/15/2003


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