A Lull – Meat Mountain EP Review

Hungry? A Lull have served up a nice plate of raw meat for you. And it tastes (i.e. sounds) good.

Lujo Records, 2012

8.0 / 10.0

The album artwork for Chicago five-piece A Lull’s new EP, Meat Mountain, is literally a chunk of uncooked steak. It says a lot for a band to use something so ordinary (and perhaps slightly repulsive, to certain audiences) as its cover art. It marks a move to a stripped back, simplified musical direction for a band previously known for creating quite busy, “wall of sound” music. Meat Mountain employs a smaller number of instruments than A Lull’s debut album Confetti, and also embraces empty space as a part of the musical experience.

“Still Got Pull” is probably the best example of this – halfway through its five minute length, the percussion grinds to a stop, allowing the vocal harmonies and fuzzy, scattered guitars to shine through. Lead singer Nigel Evan Dennis uses the song to hypothesise about being kidnapped – “People disappear every day,” he sings – and when the groovy percussion kicks back into gear, you’re so entranced that you’re almost ready to pack your bags and vanish along with him.

Thankfully Meat Mountain doesn’t dwell on such dark subject matter for too long. There’s also plenty of lyrics about love, friends, pretty girls and fighting. The flute and saxophone-drenched “Summer Dress” sees Dennis lusting after a woman in a fancy frock: “You got that dress on / That you know I love“. In contrast, the slow-moving, jumpy track “Not About It” is about getting into a brawl with an unsavoury character – “You’re sadder than anyone I’ve ever / Ever, ever, ever seen / Make yourself feel better / Make me feel worse / Take a hit to the skull / And this is how it goes“. Its not a terribly inventive or substantial set of lyrical themes, but it suits the musical direction of the EP, and the decision that A Lull have made to switch to a more toned-down level of production.

Overall, A Lull’s Meat Mountain is a great EP. It’s complex and varied enough in its instrumentation to stay true to the band’s wall-of-sound legacy from previous releases, but it also doesn’t overdo it, adding healthy doses of silence. This is warm, comforting, nourishing experimental indie-pop – just like a perfectly cooked steak, I guess. Maybe A Lull are really on to something with their unconventional choice of cover art? Well, whatever the answer to that question, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this group from now on. I look forward to seeing what they cook up next.

Check out my personal blog: Songs For The Nerdy.