And did we just mention the Doleful Lions. These little darlings wowed us all last year with their 4th long player ‘Out like a lamb’, possibly the best album of the year and if not very close. Doleful Lions appear on a new label based in London which is sure to set the proverbial cat amongst the audio pigeons and is called The Great Pop Supplement. Each release, we are assured, will be in an extremely, first come first served, limited run of just 111 copies. Each packed with enough gubbins and inserts to keep the most curious of vinyl-philes entertained. First release for the label will be by Vibracathedral whose split with Low featured in these pages way back last year. As with these things we’re yet to hear the Vibracathedral offering, though fear not we do have releases 2, 3 and 4 at our disposal. As mentioned the Doleful Lions take up release number 2: ‘I can take you to the sun / 1723’. Both tracks feature on the aforementioned ‘Out like a lamb’, the former being one of the albums key pop moments where the band excelled in blending mind arranging psyche pastiches and delivering it in an innocent Mommas and Poppas style. ‘1723’ courts the senses with such translucent conviction as to have you dizzily begging for more. A delicate balance of tranquil gestures, exquisite techniques that simply pinpoint the place where sensual meets the surreal. Doleful Lions could be quite possibly the finest exponents of the pop dream today, each finely worked mini epic ticks away waiting to expel its colourful and ethereal magic to all within earshot. A modern classic?
Doleful Lions -- 7 (Parasol)
I think the phrase “transition album” is not being used much anymore, perhaps since so few artists make enough albums to reach that point. But the seventh album from Doleful Lions fits the phrase to a ‘t.’ Although Jonathan Scott has made various changes in how he presents his music, none have been so drastic as this one.
And we can thank his brother Robert, who is back in the Lions’ fold, for effectuating this change. Robert has provided electronic backing for Jonathan before, but never before has it been so extensive. Jonathan’s acoustic guitar is less prominent on this album, with Robert providing an array of sounds and effects to back Jonathan’s songs.
Does it work? Most of the time it does. But this new approach hasn’t been perfected yet. That being said, Jonathan’s often mystical lyrics are well suited for the spacey and warm sounds that Robert concocts. The biggest drawbacks are that the sound can be a bit sterile and, at times, the busy backgrounds threaten to overwhelm Jonathan’s angelic vocals. This latter point is critical, because the heart of the Doleful Lions sound is Jonathan’s special voice, childlike and vulnerable, which creates an instant empathy.
What is most encouraging is that despite this shift in sound, the songs are as good as ever. I have to first discuss “Winfield Walker”, which clocks in at just shy of eight and a half minutes. The song immediately gets going, with vigorous electronic drums and icy melodic synth lines. The haiku-like verses have Jonathan singing over lighter percussion and strummed guitar (sounding a bit like New Order) before flowing back into the harder percussion of the intro. The lyrics are exceptionally spare and slowly reveal a very ominous tone that doesn’t quite fit the vibrant and atmospheric music. This song could be from the perspective of a jealous lover or an angry god, asserting the ultimate control: “What destroyed your soul/this blade insane/forever shade/heaven made/today.”
The main components of the song are contrasted with a beautiful breakdown with elegant keyboards suggesting flutes and also a great New Order-ish instrumental break about two-thirds of the way through the song.
This song really shows how fruitful this new sound should ultimately be, as it sacrifices none of the beauty of Jonathan’s songwriting, but casts it in a new light that is extremely attractive to listen to. I especially like the fact that it integrates Jonathan’s guitar playing with Robert’s most impressive sonic soundscape. I think that the guitar should always have a place in Doleful Lions music, though not necessarily on every song. And the same holds true for keyboards. Whatever the song needs, within this configuration, should be used.
After seeing a couple of live performances of “Magic Without Tears” done by Jonathan with just his acoustic guitar, hearing it reimagined in a percolating mid-‘80s fashion was a surprise. But Robert’s additions, particularly with the rhythmic components, turn a fragile and lovely song into an inspiring piece of modern pop. This tune may be as close as Jonathan will come to a positive thinking tune. The song itself has a great build up, with verse after verse chronicling the pitfalls ahead and the chorus finally coming in to save the day.
Okay, the odd percussion breakdown in the middle may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if Alastair Crowley has a Top 40 chart down deep below the surface of the earth, he’s bopping to this right now. He also can sway a bit to “Here Come the Star Nations”, which moves more into the turf of Vince Clarke’s work with Depeche Mode and Erasure, at least in terms of the keyboard sounds coming from Robert.
Even with the markedly more electronic backing (because I should note that it’s not like there haven’t been keyboards and drum machines on prior Doleful Lions efforts), the pastoral side of the band has not been shunted aside. “White Lotus Day” is a lovely song, with the electronics giving it a orch-pop bent. And on “Holy Hill”, Scott’s acoustic guitar moves to the forefront on a song that floats and glides, with Robert providing just the right amount of ornamentation in the background.
If this album has a weakness, it’s that there are too many instrumentals, and a couple of them, especially the opener, “Blazing Sun Rising Over the Mountains of the East”, go on a bit too long. I think this made it a bit harder for me to get into the album at first, as the instrumentals disrupt the flow of the album. This is exacerbated by the fact that three of them come on the second half of the disc.
Still, I’m excited that Doleful Lions is remaining fresh and open to new approaches. As long as Jonathan’s voice doesn’t get lost in the mix of the dazzling soundscapes, I am even more excited about hearing the next album, as the Scott brothers perfect this sound.
Song Cyclops Volume Two
7 out of 10 Stars
It’s always a good idea for musicians to keep things they haven’t released. Studio sessions of earlier material can always give bands ideas for songs, or even songs themselves, for future albums. So when Doleful Lions released Song Cyclops Volume One in 2000, few realized that they actually had recorded enough material for a second volume. And this is what you have here, with the exception of a couple of tracks churned out earlier this year. Lead singer and mastermind Jonathan Scott isn’t as dynamic or adventurous as he’s been with previous studio efforts, but it’s still an album with more than enough old-school pop sensibilities to pull things off smashingly. After the brief Beach Boys-ish barber shop quartet intro “Foxhole Prayer”, Scott and his mates get the ball rolling with a gorgeous “The Warriors End Table” that sounds eerily like Guided By Voices in their prime (when weren’t they in their prime?) and an early, revved up version of the Who. It’s a joyous, snappy, crisp, and catchy number that sounds like it was recorded in someone’s basement. And it’s one that is easily placed on repeat again and again and again and again and ...
Scott could probably spot a hook or melody across the street and it’s that knack that makes so many of these precious nuggets come to life so quickly and effortlessly. Just have a gander at “Freezing Breezes”, which brings to mind some sort of concoction between the Cure and Sloan. Sweet but still alt.rock or indie rock, the song settles into its groove quite nicely. The same aura is felt during the sugary “Saturday Mansions”. A slow doo-wop rendition of The Crystals’ “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” strolls along without a care in the world. What is apparent is how secure and sure Scott is that he will deliver the goods song after song. And he does here without the slightest of problems. It’s this tight power pop that makes “Wallflower” shine, even if musically or hook-wise it’s not the greatest tune in the world.
A couple of numbers don’t quite measure up to Scott’s generally high level of creativity. “Xanax & Windsprints” is a good example of this as Doleful Lions come off as disjointed, trippy, and totally unfocused. It might work as a hidden bonus track elsewhere, but here it’s basically a waste of 80 seconds. Thankfully, you forget all about that with the gleaming “Ghost Town in the Sky” that could be the b-side of a Split Enz single. One gets a taste of how lush, orchestral, and sonically rich future albums could be with the gorgeous “She’s Got Rhythm”, a cover of a Beach Boys relic from the late ‘70s. Here Scott creates a lovely emotional version that has equal parts U2 and Mercury Rev. But generally, Doleful Lions stick with what they knew best at the time, with the excellent “She’s Got Rhythm” resembling a tug of war between the Jackson 5 and the Partridge Family.
The second half of the record follows much the same blueprint as the first, although there tends to be a handful of songs that measure up to the quality of the first half. “From This Day On”, a cover of the Close Lobsters tune, is a rootsy pop tune in the vein of Tom Petty. A similar tune follows with “Oriental Spike” reeking of that old Byrds-ian feeling. And for the rest of the album, what you get are intricate pop numbers that seem to take a bit from McGuinn, a bit from Matthew Sweet, and a bit from XTC, particularly on the cheery “Chrome Submarine” or thoughtful, reflective “Tree Full Of Owls”.
Doleful Lions might continue to get back to their adventurous, dreamy and lush brand of rock. But for this album, they’ve returned to a timeless, surefire format that ages as well as a bottle of wine. And it’s an extremely expensive bottle, of course.
Out Like A Lamb
“With wasted ways and summer days / And frightwigs have eclipsed the moon / On stout and lime and evening time / And ‘I’ve been in this town so long that back in the city . . .’ / And don’t you know it was the government / Stopped the Beach Boys from releasing Smile / Yes it’s still done harm / Look at the way we’ve kept the farm / With its endless revisions / And it makes me want to smash the masses / And we could fall in love . . .”
That bit of lyrics from “Surfside Motel”, by Doleful Lions singer/songwriter Jonathan Scott has been in my head for a week. The song is partially an esoteric tribute (an ode to the Beach Boys, which includes a quote from their song “Heroes and Villains"), part stream-of-consciousness babbling, part pretentious scrawling, but then again, so are nearly all of Michael Stipe’s lyrics. The point is, Scott, like Stipe, manages to make the combination work. With spare acoustic guitars, plaintive vocal harmonies, and the smallest, most subtle hint of an orchestra that would make both Brian Wilson and Lambchop frontman Kurt Wagner smile in appreciation, “Surfside Motel” perfectly encapsulates what the entire new album by the Doleful Lions sounds like. Out Like a Lamb is one of the most innocuous, oh-pardon-me-while-I-blow-your-mind epics you’ll come across.
Out Like a Lamb is the Doleful Lions’ fourth album, and the current version of the band’s lineup has been pared down to a trio: Scott at the helm, with help from David Jackson and Aynsley Pirtle (there’s no indication as to who plays what instrument on the album). The album is quiet in its approach, but grandiose in its execution, reflected wonderfully by the photos of various skies in the CD booklet. It sounds big without getting too overblown.
“Saturday Mansions” starts off the album, as a dreamy keyboard intro fades in, before being interrupted by a light acoustic guitar riff, a sprightly beat, and sunny lyrics sung by Aynsley Pirtle: “Open the door and go outside / It’s Saturday”. With Pirtle’s entrancing, feminine vocals, the song paints a picture of “early breezes / And frosty freezes”, sounding like Belle & Sebastian in their prime, but as the song fades out in the end, the backing “ah-ah” vocals remain up front in the mix, and carry on a cappella for several bars, almost sounding like a monks’ chant, replacing the song’s whimsy and sunniness with funereal majesty and darkness. “Stand in the Colosseum” immediately begins right after, as Scott delivers a slow, angry anti-technology diatribe (or at least, that’s what it seems to me), pitting the enemy hiding in their “Pentium bunker”, versus the “riders of the analogue phoenix” as an acoustic guitar plays on, with light keyboard accompaniment, and electric guitar fills, a la “Pale Blue Eyes”. “I Can Take You to the Sun” follows, and is a completely different change of direction, where its vocal harmonies and subject matter ("The phantom flowers fool the showers / Raining in your mind") sound like an updated version of Revolver-era George Harrison. After you get through the light beauty of “Surfside Motel”, you feel like you’ve heard a ton of music, but realize that only 15 minutes have passed, and you’re just one third of the way through the CD.
So what comes next? Well, a musical history of the Freemasons, of course. “1723”, a folksy, acoustic guitar waltz sung by Pirtle, possesses lofty collegian wordiness ("The ancients they sing the Ballad of Hiram / Injected with a shadow serum") and a lilting melody that beguiles as much as it bewilders. The title track is a bit more simple, as it starts with a drum machine, acoustic guitar, and droning Sigur Ros-like guitar that, like the tones of the Icelandic band, builds and builds for two minutes, but instead of climaxing, it cuts off abruptly in an unsettling moment of tape-us interruptus, and Scott re-starts the acoustic guitar-drum machine sound, singing simple verses: “I needed to break the bonds of this world / On wings of my leaving”. Scott then gets biblical on us on the next two tracks: the wry, Simon & Garfunkel-inspired “Dear Lazarus” ("Were you grateful / When he rolled the stone away / Or had the stench of days / Swallowed your chance to live again?"), and the upbeat, hook-laden “Hey Spartacus”, which tries to summon the spirit of the Roman warrior to set things right in the modern world.
The lush “Tanah Lot” (sung beautifully by Pirtle) tells the tale of the Indonesian temple, though anyone who either has never been to Bali or doesn’t have access to a Google search will be a bit bewildered (by the way . . . erm, thanks, Google). “When We Were Wolves” is a quiet fantasy tale in the same vein as early King Crimson. “Texas is Beautiful” is a bittersweet look back at a visit to the southern state ("The canyons that spoke / Of rattlesnakes spinning away in the sun / Texas is beautiful / Now that I have gone"), the only song on Out Like a Lamb that turns the volume up as it careens for a Mercury Revved up six minutes. The album closes with another quiet number in “Graveyards of Swallows”, where Scott carries on again about leaving this world behind, singing, “I know I’ll leave this world of violence / And celebrates the world of silence / In castles of ancient kindness.”
By now, you’re either tired of Scott’s lyrical loftiness, or just sitting back, enjoying the ride. I tended to ignore Scott’s pretensions and just let the music take me away. He can start to sound as pretentious as a graduate student trying to show everyone how clever he is, but the low-key inventiveness of the Doleful Lions’ music more than makes up for it. There are moments during Out Like a Lamb that make you wish that R.E.M. followed up Automatic For the People with an album like this one, but R.E.M. are long dead, and it’s time for someone else to pick up the slack. Out Like a Lamb isn’t perfect, but at least they tried to be perfect. Go listen to “Surfside Motel” dozen times and let yourself fall in love with the Doleful Lions.
Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum
US release date: 14 June 2005
UK release date: 13 June 2005
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
Their Satanic Majesty's RequestAmazon Lala
The Doleful Lions have garnered an incredible amount of critical praise since emerging from Chicago in the mid-1990s. Built around lead singer and guitarist Jonathan Scott, the band released their first album, Motel Swim, in 1998, and the press immediately compared the group to the Beach Boys, Big Star, and Guided by Voices. The comparisons, while hyperbolic, stem from the band’s affinity for low-fi aesthetics and emphasis on infectious melody. Since then, Scott and his ever-shifting lineup of players have gone on to release several more albums, each one stylistically different from the others but consistently grounded in a keen pop sensibility and deft musicianship. More notably, the band has attracted attention through Scott’s lyrical obsessions, which deal with such unlikely topic matter as sasquatches, werewolves, mythological characters, demons, murderers, psychics, and other subjects hastily filed under “New Age” at your local Barnes and Noble.
Seeing that Scott’s interests are not exactly mainstream, it was only a matter of time before the Doleful Lions released an album mainly devoted to everyone’s favorite scapegoat: Satan. Now trimmed down to a duo—Scott and studio guru David Jackson—the band has created the most unlikely album that not only deals with Jesus’ nemesis, but also the Knights Templar, ghosts, kings, biblical characters, and other assorted Joseph Campbell fare. Unlike many other albums dealing with such… um… dark topics, this album is not cornball death metal. Nope, you won’t find any angry shouting or heavy riffing here. Nor is this album a pretentious prog-rock adventure, the kind laden with unnecessary drum rolls and sci-fi keyboards. In fact, there is no musical masturbation at all on this album. Instead, Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum is a collection of psychedelic folk songs that are dreamy, catchy, and often tenderly beautiful in execution. While most of the songs are less sunny than those on previous releases, all of them lean to the soft side and possess an ethereal, reflective tone. Somewhere the Prince of Darkness must be scratching his horned head, wondering where all the fake blood and black attire went.
Yes, yes, yes… songs about the devil, ghosts, warriors, blah, blah, blah can be disastrously silly and insipid. Think back to the ‘80s for examples. Or, if you have a few hours of your life to waste, watch that VH1 Most Metal Moments show for a visual encyclopedia of lyrical stupidity created in honor of Lucifer or wizards. Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum, for the most part, avoids the cliché potholes of such topic matter. Rather than treating these characters as symbols for juvenile rebellion or ridiculous fantasy, Scott writes lyrics that are informed with the detail of a folklorist. His knowledge of mythology, history, and religion is impressive, and the delicate tone of the music prevents the songs from drowning underneath their own severity.
This soft approach is used throughout most of the album. “Sham Magic in the Night Gallery”, for example, is a bouncy song that references warriors, sepulchers, and magicians. In other words, on a thematic level, it’s a Dungeons and Dragons nerd’s fantasy; musically, the song is a straight-forward pop tune, complete with a buoyant beat and jangly electric guitar. While the lyrics are downright weighty ("The fakes hung on the walls / That desecrate the halls / And lost the sacred word / To all the pilots of the sun"), Scott’s nasal drawl obscures the words and his whispery delivery gives the song a winsome, nostalgic feel. “Watch the Skies / A Boy’s Life” sounds like a medieval folk song, marked by a rolling guitar line and faint, swelling strings. Once again, the lyrics are not your typical content: “In the halls of Abel’s fault / They took our lives / So seal this offertory vault / And clean the knives....” The music is so achingly gorgeous and fragile, however, you’d swear Scott was singing about courtly love. The same goes for “Slip Inside This Gateway”, a autumnal folk song about ghosts and death. Just how the Doleful Lions make such grave topics seem gently fantastical is a wonder, but Scott’s hushed fingerpicking and Jackson’s unobtrusive keyboard playing provide an ethereal backdrop to the strange tales.
Not all of the songs, though, are charming and delicate. “Strange Vibrations” is downright creepy, perhaps because Scott’s voice is so distorted it sounds like a drowning insect, a mixture of vibrating hums and panicked gasps for air. In the background, a sinister whirl shakes back and forth over a series of interrupted beeps. “Satanic Blood” is also disquieting, mainly because it’s decidedly upbeat and chirpy. As a dance beat plays behind a buzzing drone, Scott bouncily repeats “Satanic blood” over and over, like a boy band gone to the dark side. In this case, the combination of dark lyrics and poppy music fails; Satan and blood just don’t make for a good dance song. Likewise, “Tommy Tells of Ghost Ships” is another foreboding song that falls victim to misfires, this time to Scott’s irritating and exaggerated vocal stylings (think of Bob Dylan doing an impersonation of himself).
Half psychedelic daydream and half mythological nightmare, Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum is a fascinating album that demands repeated listens. Overall, the repeated listens yield uneven results. While some—indeed, most—of the songs are nothing short of beautiful, a few are nothing short of grating. Still, this is inevitable when artists are as adventurous as the Doleful Lions, and their refusal to retread familiar, safe ground is admirable. Wherever the Doleful Lions go from here (Loch Ness Monster, anyone?), they deserve to not go alone.
Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum
It’s a strange thing Jonathan Scott and David Jackson do as Doleful Lions. Even after investing several hours trying to figure out Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum the nut of the whole thing remains elusive.
One way to look at it is as a black-metal act masquerading as the bastard child of Thom Yorke and Bob Pollard. Close your eyes and put yourself in a castle banquet hall where Yorke, having just finished reading "Beowulf," reaches for his guitar and four-track and, aided by several pewter goblets of red wine laced with PCP, starts picking out a folk-rock opera replete with occult themes and medieval references to swords and blizzards and ciphers and Xanadu.
Supposedly a lyrical homage to some black-metal band called Von, Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum is an amazingly complex record that at times sounds like Stephen Merritt singing around the fire pit at some Society for Creative Anachronism camping trip. Other times, such as the opening track, “Sham Magic in the Night Gallery,” the Lions just make a nice, jangly pop tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a later Pavement record.
The story is that Scott and Jackson don’t talk to each other, but communicate solely through e-mail. For the making of this record, the Lions’ fifth, Scott worked from Chicago and Jackson put the thing together in his mad scientist’s studio in North Carolina. The record doesn’t sound like either of those places, but it does have the taste of a rural birthplace, a place where the only thing to do is figure out how to make morbid paeans to Lucifer and calls to war accessible to the masses.
Scott’s aching falsetto sounds more like it should be riding some guitar-dripping Brit-pop wave than the under-produced tracks Jackson has created to hold it up. The lo-fi-ness of the record is deceptive, however. While many moments pleasingly recall vintage Guided By Voices, Jackson sprinkles unexpected production flourishes into the mix. On “Strange Vibrations,” a swirling stew of noise is spruced up by jingle bells. Computer tinkles adorn the anthemic “Tommy Tells of Ghost Ships.” A driving, almost hip-hop beat propels fuzzy guitar and droning keys on the closing instrumental, “The Extra-Large Epiphany,” into Flaming Lips territory.
See, that’s the thing about this record. By the time you have it figured out, Jackson switches things up just enough to make you go back and listen again. And, unlike Bob Pollard’s penchant for putting his every fart and belch onto tape regardless of whether he had a real song, Jackson produces complete songs from the random and incomplete streams of consciousness Scott sends him. It’s well worth the time spent trying to piece it all together.
- Christopher Keough
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Doleful Lions | 7
Most Likely To: bewilder fans familiar with their previous records.
Although it may carry a matter-of-fact title, the seventh full-length release by Illinois’ Doleful Lions is a courageous, self-assured move in a direction not so much as hinted at by their previous outings. On 7, the brothers Scott (Jonathan, who wrote the bulk of the tracks, and Robert Lee, who produced the effort) take bold strides away from the lo-fi leaning sounds that have served them so well on past albums toward snazzier, synthesizer-led airspace. It is a style so dramatically different from the rest of their body of work that it may as well have been recorded by an entirely different band; the fact that it works more often than not is a testament to the Scotts’ talent as songwriters.
Perhaps the most compelling argument on behalf of this radical shift can be found on “Here Come the Star Nations,” a song exuding 8-bit electro-pop strains like so many pixelated rays of sunlight. It is truly unlike anything Doleful Lions have ever put to tape–or hard drive, as the sound implies–marrying their knack for understated hooks with pulsating, arpeggiated synth lines taken directly from the Nintendo sound bank. At its 4/4 beating heart, this is a sexed up pop song, the most memorable of the bunch.
Despite that song’s many charms, “Magic Without Tears” may be more indicative of the overall modus operandi on 7. Jonathan Scott’s vocals are let loose with the air of half-sung casualness over a thick bed of drum machines and synthesizer chords, but the most prominent motif is the guitar line that anchors the many choruses, a riff which bears the strong imprint of New Order’s Bernard Sumner.
As with many of the other tracks here, “Magic Without Tears” is a long song, finishing up just seconds under the five minute mark. However, none of the material here feels overblown. “Winfield Walker,” clocking in at eight and a half minutes, is representative of the lengthy tracks here in that it tends to make the listener lost in its slow burn. These songs are never boring; instead, they are immersive, submerging the listener for stretches of unconscious listening. They feel like coming up for air in a swimming pool–the sudden burst of awareness kicks in and you wonder where you were for the past few minutes. This collection of songs create a lovely fugue. It’s best to just surrender yourself to a piece like “We Are Nine” and let its tide take you where it may.
To be sure, 7 is not a perfect record. There are a couple of moments where the band’s past peeks in (as on the spacious “Holy Hill”) as if to ask why it’s been forsaken and there are a couple of tracks where things don’t quite come together as well as they should (see “White Lotus Day”). However, these don’t detract from the strength of the record as a whole or the impressiveness of the stark contrast between this and Doleful Lions’ other albums. It is an elegant statement–a gutsy, well-executed move from a band who could have been content to build on the success of their preceding records.
Listen to “Magic Without Tears” from Doleful Lions below:Doleful Lions - Magic Without Tears [4:56m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
Similarly intriguing is the Out Like A Lamb set from Doleful Lions (Broken Horse). Singer songwriter Jonathan Scott has apparently long voiced his admiration for Neu! and the Beach Boys, and I guess with Doleful Lions he's out to fuse those seemingly disparate influences into new sonic delights. To a large extent it's a success, too, and if it's heavier on the melody of the Beach Boys that the drone of Neu! then, for me at least, so much the better. And really, when you think about it, Brian Wilson's fabled search for, and play with sounds not inherently 'pop' inside a Pop context isn't that far away from what Neu! were about anyway, although you could argue Neu! came more from the European Rock/Avant Garde avenues, but whatever...
Doleful Lions make a rather gorgeous whisper of a sound; guitars picking out starlight bathed in swathes of keyboards; a rolling distant thunder of drums and voices that tiptoe through quarried shards of slate. It's not a million miles away from the kind of sounds being made by Augie March in fact - both bands seem to share an interest in taking melody out somewhere new, somewhere slightly unhinged and unsettling. It's vaguely psychedelic, where thankfully the psychedelia is more the gentle thrill of Sagittarius than, say, the electric overdose and histrionics of a Hendrix or Cream. This is rock that doesn't really rock at all, but rather sways, lost in summer breezes and the mythology of Smile bootlegs (and cue the best line on the album; 'don't you know it was the government stopped the Beach Boys from releasing Smile?'). Definitely one to offer up its treasures with repeated plays (and in this respect too like Augie March's wonderful Strange Bird), Out Like A Lamb has me rooting around for the three previous Doleful Lions albums, all of which were released in the US by Parasol. Out Like A Lamb is the kind of thing from which Obsessions spring.
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Doleful Lions - "Motel Swim" The Doleful Lions are basically the vehicle of singer songwriter Jonathan Scott of Asheville NC. This their first LP was recorded with the help of the famed Mitch Easter, one of the greats of the early IRS days with his band Lets Active. I almost have to make a retraction off the review I did above, as this Lp runs deep in the post REM waters of the US south, and with that naturally comes a sound that is indeed "american" and at times CCR like. This succeeds however because Jonathan has a really pleasing voice, and above all, the songs are well crafted and have great melodies. He makes a nod to his liking the German techno outing Can at the start of this Lp's first track The Sound Of Cologne but any hint of that sound creeping into the Lions work doesn't happen until the next LP. I think the song One Revolution (around the world) really encapsulates the sound of this album with it's heady southern rock flair and great chorus. This is probably the best record made south of the masey-dixie since Murmur, and the growth they would exhibit by the next Lp would be remarkable. This one's a must listen.
Label ~ Parasol, 10 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Doleful Lions - "The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!" One of the things that is obvious about viewing this group is that Jonathan Scott seems a scholarly lad, and at the very least hung up on the larger than life images of the grecian pantheon. Even the bands name carries an almost Collosus of Rhodes imagery to it. As if that was one of Hercules's tasks, fighting the doleful lions. (doleful by the way meaning "to express or cause grief, dismal, gloomy") The opening track here, I Miss The Kings is an infectous yet almost bizzare romp where punk meets CCR in lo-fi souther grunge and it's quite a captivating song. The previous mention of Can and greek imagery come together on In The Early Morning Aviaries of Marathon which features the first real synth sounds from this band teamed up to tragic lyrics about Greek gods. The synths really take over on the almost out of place Airline Histories which is a great song and while it should have been out of context on this album it manages to work. The magnum opus on this disc is the brilliant Driller Killer which is a honey sweet CCRish romp of southern pop rock. About the only thing I didn't like about this LP was the 7+ minute "slow" (and I mean slow) version of this song called Sweet Driller Killer. That I didn't need. Otherwise this is a very varied and involving record which took a lot of imagination and talent to make. I think there are songs of far greater value here than their first LP, but the first is perhaps a little more even and cohesive as a record.
Label ~ Parasol, 10 Tracks, 1999
"Sixties revisited by modern-day spacers. This is what the Beach Boys 20/20 might have sounded like if you heard it under sedation, from down a corridor, with the pitter-patter of light drizzle in the background. For Doleful Lions, tape hiss isnt a statement or a handicap, its another instrument. A must for wanderers, tender souls and those who like to look at the world with a lazy smile through a light layer of mist.--Uncut Magazine----------
Gimghoul Numerologist? Turkish Star Wars? Titles like these could only portend another set of retro fantasiac pop from this Chapel Hill quintet. For album No. 3, Song Cyclops Volume One, high-strung Alex Chilton aspirations have been pushed aside and Bob Dylan dragged into the opium den; the 22-track result is a beautifully bizarro indie-rock Narnia that dead-rings a lost Radiohead soundtrack to Dungeons and Dragons. One of the most satisfyingly original albums of the year. -Gear Magazine------
Song Cyclops, Volume 2 is one of the best albums of this year so far. No questions asked. It's songwriting at it's best. It's singing at it's best. It's different. THANK GOD!!!!!!!!- thetripwire.com
On a musical level, Shaded Lodge and Mausoleum is a beautiful piece of work recalling the warm acoustic psychedelia of the 60s. Fans of Nick Drake, Love, and the Beach Boys will find a lot to appreciate here. It's a gentle listening experience and I don't think I'd be too far off the mark to call it hypnotic. That's right, you'll find yourself hypnotized, floating on a cloud, in a peaceful musical cocoon... Until you realize what Jonathan Scott is singing about. That's right. There's some sinister shit going on beneath all that beautiful music. Satanism, human sacrifice, and black magic all wrapped up in poetic romanticism. I wouldn't be surprised to find the complete works of Aleister Crowley on Scott's bookshelf along with a bootleg of Kenneth Anger's underground experimental occult films in his VHS player.-Cut The Chord blog
It is rare indeed when we hear an artist whose words and music come straight from the heart. This is obviously the case here. Out Like A Lamb is chock full of music that will touch and warm your heart on the very first listen. Pop music just doesn't get much better than this... (Rating: 5+++)- LMNOP blog-
As one of the few folk-pop bands to sing songs about werewolves and driller-killers, Doleful Lions have a weirdo legacy to uphold. Shaded Lodge And Mausoleum (Parasol) announces its intentions with the opener "Sham Magic In The Night Gallery," a lo-fi magical mystery tour that charts a Byrds-like flight path. This is a record for people who like light psychedelia with nods to B-movie culture.- The Onion
A beautiful new album (Shaded Lodge And Mausoleum) from the doleful lions. 11 tracks that blend big echo and the bunnymen meets olivia tremor control pop with rich acoustic ballads, embellished with home recorded noise and weirdness that never gets in the way of the music. an expansive emotional guided by voices, a folkier grandaddy perhaps, the bands finest to date. on parasol- Rough Trade
The fourth Doleful Lions album (Out Like A Lamb) finds auteur Jonathan Scott (abetted by David W. Jackson and Aynsley Pirtle) reaching a personal summit of sorts. As a songwriter, Scott writes some of the most distinctive melodies of anyone recording pop music today. Through his music, you may not understand everything he's trying to get at. However, you will feel it. This is a very special album.-Fufkin.com
Works like the velvety "Saturday Mansions," psychedelic "I Can Take You To The Sun," subtle "Dear Lazarus" & wailing "Tanah Lot" establishes Out As A Lamb the cutting edge masterpiece that Yankee Hotel Foxtrot never was.-Power Of Pop Magazine