For most of you of a certain age, the mention of the name Lloyd Dobler will raise a smile. If you’re smiling right now, you’ll know that this power pop outfit are named after John Cusack’s enthusiastic leading man in Cameron Crowe’s movie “Say Anything…”; Lloyd was a man with very specific goals. He didn’t want to “sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed”.
As far as the Lloyd Dobler Effect are concerned, like the original Lloyd Dobler, they mostly get it right, if not always (their small failing here being that the album can occasionally start to feel a little samey, but it’s really a minor complaint) but based on parts of ‘A Mute Reminder’, they get full marks for giving 100% every time. ‘A Mute Reminder’ is the second release from Lloyd Dobler Effect, but not their second album – 11 of the 12 songs here were originally issued on LDE’s self-financed eponymously titled disc. (This 12 song version actually works better, since that 15 track self-titled version felt a little long).
‘Meet Me In London’ is a fantastic piece of power pop. Its simplicity is key and its infectiousness is equal to the work by those mid-90s power pop geniuses The Loveless. The chorus is one of those stupidly catchy ones you’re in danger of breaking into while you’re in the supermarket. ‘Have Faith’ initially reminded me of Maroon 5, but with a harder edge. Repeated listens proved this reaction to be a bit glib, since although vocally there could be a comparison, the music has more complex elements. The guitars have just the right amount of drive to push the song far enough out of the pure pop field and indeed, the end of the track goes for full-on funkiness; listen closely – Patrick Hughes’s fluid basslines are superb. If it’s basslines you want, then the latin funk of ‘Might Be Love’ is a high point; it’s almost Santana-lite approach during the song’s verses provides plenty of bounce and as such provides plenty of contrast with the song’s simple but effective pop chorus.
Another stand-out, ‘Release Me’ finds LDE at their most aggressive; but naturally it’s a radio friendly aggression where Donnie Williams gets to hit his snare drums a little harder. Again, any comparisons to early Matchbox Twenty feel almost unavoidable; Phil Kominski’s slight Rob Thomas styled vocal affectation is stronger than ever and in short, it’s another track which pushes all the right buttons. There are plenty of moments during this album that evoke Matchbox Twenty, but that’s not to say it’s plagiarism. It’s yet another example of LDE’s knack of turning in a decent hook almost every time. I say almost since one of the weakest tracks, ‘Radio’ let down by a very lightweight and repetitive chorus. It could be argued that “My radio” repeated in an almost call-and-response fashion is a simple hook, but it’s just that little bit too simple and after tracks like ‘Meet Me In London’ et al, it ends up feeling weaker by default.
The slower ‘Sold Out’ makes decent use of vocal harmonies and a gentle lead guitar riff. ‘Fingertips’ tells the tale of an habitual law breaker; it’s slightly more serious lyrical tone is balanced out by plenty of jangly rhythm guitars and yet another funky bassline. The Santana influence first heard on ‘Might Be Love’ returns by the truckload on ‘Stranger’ where LDE go full-on Latin, giving percussionist Rusty Williams ample opportunity to show off his bongo prowess. The Latin shuffles are complimented by a Rob Thomas style vocal delivery (and surely Santana’s ‘Smooth’ would have been a big influence here) and a tastefully used horn arrangement.
I discovered Lloyd Dobler Effect almost by chance and am glad I did. You’ll find very little originality within the twelve songs on ‘A Mute Reminder’, but what the music lacks in originality is more than made up for with its charm and catchy hooks. If you’re into any of the bands mentioned here, you need to put this on your list of things to check out. You might be glad you heard them too.