Buffalo, NY indie rock act Lemuria is just about set to have a productive time in 2008. The band’s Asian Man debut, Get Better, comes out at the end of this month. The band will also be heading out on a label-sponsored tour with the Queers, Bomb the Music Industry!, Andrew Jackson Jihad and Kepi Ghoulie of Groovie Ghoulies fame. But before listeners join Lemuria in this pop-tastically wonderful future, they should check out the band’s past efforts with The First Collection. Gathering 17 cuts from splits and seven-inches with a demo thrown in at the end, The First Collection is a solid overview of Lemuria. Granted, it’s not entirely representative of the band’s back catalogue (where’s the two songs from the split with the Ergs!?), but there’s always room for The Second Collection.
The First Collection opens with the seven songs from Lemuria’s 2006 split with Kind of Like Spitting, Your Living Room’s All Over Me, and they’re arguably the strongest cuts on the disc. Opening with the jangly guitar, off-kilter drumming and organ of “Hours,” everything quickly snaps together in this minute-long pop ditty. The song is about how perfect everything feels when lying next to one’s lover right before he or she has to get up and start the day. The intimacy and sexuality of the lyrics are found throughout The First Collection, but “Hours” is perhaps the sweetest representation of this style. “We don’t kiss / We just lay there / You’ve got your nose in my hair / Hands on my hips / And you’re wondering / ‘Am I ticklish?’” go the opening lines, evoking a lovely image.
Other highlights from the split include “Bugbear,” about the mixed feelings of being separated from a Siamese twin; “Keep Quiet,” about looking for love from unavailable people; and “Rough Draft.” Alternating between a punk and post-punk alternative vibe, these songs are catchy at one moment and grinding the next.
The next two tracks, “In a World of Ghosts…” and “Who Would Understand a Turtle?”, come from the band’s contribution to Art of the Underground’s Singles Series. Faster than the Living Room material, it’s equally fun. Also included are cuts from the New York vs New Jersey compilation and a split seven-inch with Frame. The Frame material is the weakest if only because the production quality is noticeably weaker compared to the rest of the disc. Elsewhere, though, strong music abides.
While frontwoman/guitarist Sheena Ozzella’s higher register carries most of the tunes with a layer of cuteness, drummer and primary songwriter (12 of this CD’s 18 tracks) Alexander Kerns is just as solid with a deeper, almost bored delivery on tunes like “The Origamists Too” and “Sophomore.”
Closing out The First Collection is the four cuts from the band’s self-titled EP. “The Origamists” has a more jagged post-punk sound that hints at what would come later, with much to unify the material with the rest of the album. Take the lyrics; the sexual/sweet imagery prevails with lines like “Today we never put on our clothes / We tried to set a record,” although later the band reminds listeners that, “It might sound dirty / But it’s cleaning curiosity.” “Home for the Holidays” amps the searing guitar over Kerns’ disdain.
After a quick demo entitled “The Origamists II,” The First Collection bows out. At 44 minutes it’s a solid singles collection that won’t test new listeners’ patience, and there are plenty of hooks to be had. While the disc covers material written and released 2005-2006, 2008 might very well be Lemuria’s breakout year.