Can’t Wait Another Day
he slippery slope of fabricating artist descriptions (bands making babies with bands, giving drugs to bands, doing perverse things to bands) sometimes seems like a necessary evil that—when plied sparingly—can make for cheap, effective descriptors. It gets a bit closer than nearly useless genre catchalls like “post-rock” or “experimental” or “alternative,” but also stinks of avoidance and encyclopedic assholism. Ladybug Transistor, a sprawling collective of onetime Elephant Sixers fronted by Greg Olson, get bombarded with them more often than most.
I tried to steer away from it, then somewhere near the middle of their sixth album, Can’t Wait Another Day, “Terry” began. What’s there? A humid thump straight off of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season” and the flourishing, myriad fingerpicks of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” in echoed verbatim. The Brooklyn natives’ chamber-pop-out-west aesthetic, the conceivable outcome of such a Neil-Zombies type collision, has been carefully burnished over six full lengths. The comparisons most often made (Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, the Left Banke) are fairly accurate—there’s no eyeball-shredding revolutions in a Ladybug Transistor album. Pulling together a retinue of disparate instruments in the confines of traditional songwriting, Greg Olson and his bandmates have kept up the vitality of classic songwriting, staying true to the lineage that critics have often tied him to.
Opener “Always on the Telephone” is the Ladybug Transistor’s m.o. Olson brings all the familiar signifiers: somber trumpets and pedal guitars for lonely western expanses, strings as the big swelling emotions that fill them, etc. There’s lovesick narratives, as in “This Old Chase” or “For No Other,” meticulously topped with jangling stabs of piano and charging acoustics. Olson’s trademark baritone, a Stephen Merritt without all the ironic trappings, is all over the record (longtime member and co-vocalist Sasha Bell left in 2003 to work fulltime with Essex Green). In closer “Lord, Don’t Pass Me By” he’s terrifyingly dry, begging an ex “For the love of God / Open up the door and please don’t pass me by” with all the conviction of a man ordering a latté.
Every now and then Olson quivers and the whole skewered texture of his voice falls away. More often than not, though, he relies on the plush compositions to buoy the rough spots. And at this point, it’s expected. Over ten years since their first release, Can’t Wait Another Day is another album of what Ladybug Transistor does best: distilled pop and folk from another era, part doppelganger, part contemporary sheen—an indie rock album in its Sunday best.
Reviewed by: Daniel Denorch
Reviewed on: 2007-06-11