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LENOLA (Buy CDs by this artist)
The Last 10 Feet of the Suicide Mile (Tappersize) 1996
The Swerving Corpse (Tappersize) 1997

A lot of bands embrace the DIY aesthetic, but few do it themselves to the extent of Lenola. Since debuting in 1994 with the "Colonial" 7-inch, the Philadelphia-area quartet of Jay Laughlin (vocals, guitar), Dave Grubb (guitar), Scott Colan (bass) and Sean Byrne (drums) has recorded, released and promoted its own records on its Tappersize label and booked its own tours from the back room of a mom-and-pop record store where three of the guys worked.

The Last 10 Feet of the Suicide Mile showcases a band heavily influenced (effects-wise, at least) by My Bloody Valentine. However, where Kevin Shields and company left traditional structures behind, Lenola isn't afraid to write actual songs, complete with big choruses and hummable melodies (though buried beneath layers of otherworldly sounds). Not as abstract as Azusa Plane, as retro as Asteroid #4 or as ambient as Flowchart (to name three bands associated with Philly's "space" scene), Lenola funnels these styles into pop music that's both eerie and pretty. On the whole, The Swerving Corpse is more rock than its predecessor, trading in some of the studio flourishes of The Last 10 Feet for a sound rooted in space/psychedelia that's more in tune with the band's live show.

Laughlin's vocals are at the fore on most of the songs, delivering odd, impressionistic lyrics (written by Colan and Laughlin's brother Christopher) like "Latex cover/Paramedics/Endless rounds of calisthenics" ("Martin Song"). Though the album's instrumental interludes recall The Last 10 Feet (and, for that matter, MBV's Loveless), The Swerving Corpse marks a new maturity for Laughlin as a songwriter and Lenola as a band. Fiscal factoid: Lenola recorded both albums, as well as a handful of singles and compilation tracks, at home for less than $5,000 — about one-percent of what Loveless cost to make.

[Eric T. Miller]
   
This piece was first published in Badaboom Gramophone #3 and appears here with permission.