At this stage, if you know anything about Lo Tom and the band’s eponymous debut, you know it is a convergence of former Pedro the Lion players T.W. Walsh and frontman David Bazan with Jason Martin and Trey Many of Starflyer 59. You also have heard that the record was done on the quick, a summit of sorts between longtime colleagues who wanted to play and record and not fuss about it.
This is commendable. With so many albums out there scientifically engineered to either try to get you to shake your butt or woo your pants off, there is an appeal to a recording whose agenda is “no strict agenda.” And just because the goal is looseness doesn’t mean it is sloppy. On the contrary, the combo of Martin on guitar and Many on drums is as tightly coiled as on recent SF59 fare.
The looseness really appears in Bazan’s lyrics which frequently have no greater purpose than to fit into the spaces the band allots. For many, this alone will be a form of relief from the sweated-over phrases Bazan often provides with critical glances to politics and religion. He sounds like he’s having fun and giving the performances his full attention. It is, nonetheless, hard to hang on to the fried glam/quasi-beat demeanor of the wordplay.
I thought the overall sound of the recording was spot-on, but was surprised by my indifference to it when it was over. The one song that managed to stick in my memory was “Covered Wagon,” but I suspect that has more to do with it being the first track. The album is quite short at eight tracks and the songs that follow “Covered Wagon” do not displace it. This is precisely what makes Lo Tom such an oddity: it is charming and energetic when it is on, and gone from short-term memory when it is not.
So, Lo Tom is o-kay, and should be added to the collections of fans of its component players. One suspects that it would have been more than okay if a little more attention was paid to the hooks.