By Chris Moore:
RATING: 4 / 5 stars
No other artist or band brings as much raw, unbridled energy to their music as Locksley.
On their sophomore effort, Be in Love, they are beginning to refine their arrangements and modify the formula established on 2007’s Don’t Make Me Wait. In many ways, the songs on this record sound very much like the songs on their 2007 debut: the jangly, early Beatles-esque guitars gone punk, the nearly shouted vocals, the breakneck pacing.
And yet there are significant distinctions to be drawn, particularly in the subtleties they have injected throughout these twelve tracks.
The harmonic feedback that functions as the intro to “Love You Too” — and, thereby, to the album as a whole — suggests an implicit desire to postpone and properly frame the energy that has appropriately defined the Locksley sound for the past three years.
Be In Love is a slow burn, if you will, as opposed to an explosion, although it does have its explosive moments.
Elsewhere, the lead vocals are augmented by more intricate arrangements, specifically the background vocals on tracks like “21st Century,” that allow for the layered feel of these songs. The breakdown after the core of “Days of Youth” betrays more patience than the band has previously possessed, just as “Away From Here” stretches out and breathes, acting as the perfect closer to the first half of this album.
By the time the second half fades in, introduced as was the first half with feedback, it is clear that Locksley have wound themselves up again. The eminently singable “The Whip” introduces a second batch of songs as varied and nearly as satisfying as the first six tracks.
When Locksley’s debut was re-issued a year after its initial release, they tacked on three additional tracks — not listed as bonus tracks — unceremoniously to the end of the record’s lineup. With Be in Love, they have turned a corner and begun to process their work with more purpose, deliberate action being taken to ensure the optimal arrangements of individual songs, as well as the overall order of tracks, to work toward a cohesive whole.
Remarkably, they have done this while sacrificing little — if any — of the abandon that made Don’t Make Me Wait so exciting.
One criticism of their previous work which cannot be lifted here is regarding their lyrics. Certainly, words aren’t the end-all, and there is much to be said for the “feel” of a musical composition. Still, what the singer is saying should matter.
Here, at times, the singer isn’t saying much (see the opener: “If you leave me, oh would I be blue” for the first instance of inane lyricism).
However, there are numerous occasions across the record that deliver much more, not least of all the promise of progression from this young act. Take lead guitarist Kai Kennedy’s excellent “Days of Youth.” This song opens with the lines, “And your body full of stars, constellations made of scars, recalls a time when you were young, body baking in the sun. And how I hope that you can see I see you innocent and free; that’s the way that you will stay with the passing of your days.” This introductory stanza pulls in thematic elements up for consideration throughout the album, particularly that of looking back on youth and ahead to the future, considering how one’s past experiences affect his identity in the present.
This song also includes the title line: “Be in love with you tonight beside an old house full of light, city cold and far away, can be anyone when day comes down.” It is unclear here whether the singer is advocating a fresh start or endorsing an escape of sorts when he sings about the ability to be “anyone when day comes down.” At the end of the day, he sings, “And I’ll try to remember you, when we were brand new, in our days of youth.” This selective imagining of the person in question suggests a desire to banish unwanted thoughts of the present, choosing instead to cling to more pure memories.
This is the subtext throughout Be in Love: live in the present, but cling to the beautiful simplicity of the past, a question asked as far back as on the 2007 track “The Past and Present” as “Every day now she finds memories when she shuts her eyes… Leave it, why don’t you leave it?” The answer three years ago was, “It’s just as well these days are gone.”
Now, the statement being made is clear: embrace what is true.
Often, what is true is that which has strong roots in the past.
In “Love You Too,” the singer declares, “I remember the morning that I fell in love. Now every evening, I just can’t get enough.” Here, the connection between the past and present is clear, and it is an over-simplification to suggest that Locksley’s argument is to resort to nostalgia. Far from it, on “Down For Too Long,” Laz asserts, “Whatever I am is alright. Whatever you are is alright. Whatever it is is alright. Whatever we are is alright.”
Clearly, the present isn’t so unmanageable.
The point of the album seems to boil down to a central crisis. On “Down Too Long,” Laz sings, “Shout out! We’re men in the middle of a shake down! God don’t it make you want to break down! Yeah, but you know that we’ve been down for too long.” Later, as Locksley channels the White Stripes, he sings, “All the time I’m trying to be the man you want me to, but all I ever get from you is silence. Now I’m on fire and out of control!”
This is expanded upon later, as he sings of a girl who inspires lust rather than love. “I won’t give in; it isn’t love that I’m thinking of,” he declares. The implication is apparent: if love is not present, then lust is not worthwhile.
For so many reasons — quality and content to name two — “21st Century should be read as the centerpiece of Be in Love, a track which helps to frame the context of the conflict. The chorus describes a turning point, specifically the moment that all people face at the intersection between youth and maturity. As Laz puts it, “We’re all coming together, we’re all falling apart, reaching the end only the end of the start, taking the pictures to remember the times, remember the times when we were young and out of line.”
The friction, the simultaneous shaking into and out of one’s skin, is palpable here. Again, the topic of memory juxtaposed with living in the present arises. Ultimately, we are left with the suggestion of promise and possibility: “I’ve got memories of things I’ve never done, some from when I’m older, some from when I’m young. I’ve got best friends that I never get to see. I hope I’ll find the time, I hope they find the time for me.”
If nothing else, it is clear that Locksley’s title mantra of “be in love” is, much like Ringo Starr’s 2005 title track, an espousal of the “choose love” school of thought. In all that we do, we should “find the time” for others in the hope that others will do the same. We all have “memories of things [we’ve] never done,” so why not work toward actually doing them?
Be in Love is one of the most fun, rocking, simple, and yet subtly smart and purposeful albums of the year. As I wrote in my review of their debut release, I write again: I can only imagine the potential for what their next album will be like.