DANY LAJ & THE LOOKS – You Should Know / I’m So Glad

Dany Laj & The Looks’ fourth album ‘Ten Easy Pieces’ was a masterpiece of pop-rock goodness. One listen to the They Might Be Giants inspired single ‘Don’t Keep Me Guessin’’ was enough to reel in a prospective audience with the catchiest hook of 2021, but the record’s musical gold ran far deeper. Between the energised harmonies of ‘Smoke In The Sun’, the almost Beatle-esque ‘In Other Words’, and the new wave throw back ‘Pick It Up’, the album darted effortlessly between some fairly disparate styles, but Laj’s strong gifts for a melody always acted as the glue holding everything together. Even with ‘Don’t Keep Me Guessin’’ towering above a couple of the album’s lesser cuts, it managed to be one of the year’s best long players.

A follow up felt a long time coming and, indeed, by issuing a two track single, Laj hasn’t exactly been generous when it comes to building upon his legacy or fan base in ’22. However, both songs on this 7” are a sharp reminder of The Looks’ enduring talent, with the lead track ‘You Should Know’ occasionally sounding like a direct successor to some of the previous album’s more low key moments.

‘You Should Know’ isn’t quite as catchy as some of Laj’s top tier tunes, but a few listens uncovers the kind of retro pop that fans have come to love. Opening with a Phil Spector-ish drum part, it wastes no time in advertising a love for US-based, pre-Beatles pop, and a thin, twangy guitar further escalates a classic retro pop sound. Adopting a soft tone, Dany’s lead vocal sits nicely against a light surfy arrangement, but it’s the arrival of Jeanette’s cheeky “shooby-doo-wap” counter melody that makes the track. With the key elements in place, a solid bass retains a strong backbone, before Laj escalates a now strong melody with a chorus that allows him to soar into a louder vocal, harmonising with Jeanette kind of hook that makes good on a confident verse. Sliding back into the distinctly 1962 arrangement, a little extra reverb applied to the guitar fleshes out a great sound, and by the time the climax is reached, this old style pop workout begins to sound like a Looks recording you’ve known forever.

On the flip, a cover of the old Skip James blues number ‘I’m So Glad’ (most well known to UK audiences via the Cream recording from 1967, and their powerhouse live takes from their Goodbye tour the following year) takes Dany and friends off in a different direction, and yet there’s still something about their fuzzy garage rock take on the number that’s distinctly them. The riff allows guitarist Anna Mernieks-Duffield to crank the volume musically, but vocally too, Dany has been unafraid to tap into something shoutier. By the time a slightly atonal lead break rolls around, and Jeanette breaks into a couple of furious bass runs, this could easily be a rediscovered recording from the late sixties, in line with The Electric Prunes. It’s only really the clean harmony vocal that gives away its twenty first century origins, but those harmonies are superb, acting very much as a calling card back to the best bits of ‘Ten Easy Pieces’ once more, suggesting it’ll claim a place among fan favourites fairly quickly.

Coming almost eighteen months after the release of the previous LP, there was more than enough scope for Laj to make a triumphant return with something more in-depth, but any new music from the cult Canadian and his revolving cast of friends is more than welcome. As brief as it may be, this double whammy of power pop and garage rock will definitely capture the interest of fans and retro pop devotees alike.

Buy it here!

November 2022