Lipstik is positioning itself as a 21st century American heartland rock band, but â€” as is often the case when a band tells you what it thinks it sounds like â€” that isn’t entirely accurate. Comparisons to Petty, Springsteen, The Jayhawks, et al. are misleading; though Everything is Good shares those artists’ fascination with open roads and broken hearts, it’s missing a few important ingredients.
The album’s primary problem is a lack of dynamics in songwriter Sam Jacobs’ material. It isn’t that the songs aren’t catchy; you’ll probably remember cuts like “The Fuck Off” (download) and “Erica” (download), but when Jacobs finds an interesting idea, he’s often content to repeat it rather than develop it. By the time some of these songs are finished, the listener is liable to feel assaulted by the chorus. This type of music is reductionist at its core, so there’s a fine line between pounding in a killer hook and riding it to death â€” the artists Lipstik is shooting for sometimes end up on the wrong side of that line â€” but how far the band goes will ultimately have a lot to do with how fully Jacobs grasps the difference between riffing and storytelling.
Everything is billed as “a loosely conceptual album about a strung-out runaway in need of redemption,” and there’s the album’s other big problem: If the runaway ever finds redemption, it’s hidden pretty deep in all the minor chords and tired, multitracked vocals. Musically, there’s no arc here, and the effect becomes claustrophobic after awhile. What the band does, it does well, but it’s hard not to get distracted wishing they’d open things up a little.
That being said, it’s undeniably interesting to hear a band try so openly to filter classic AOR through a modern post-everything lens. Given enough time and energy, they might pull it off.