There’s something about California that affects a band’s sound, from the “surf sound” of the 1960s to the speed metal of Metallica, from the languid dark poetry of The Doors to the punk X and hardcore Black Flag. The California effect changes each band in its own distinctive way. So, what happens when you take a band from the Golden State and move them to the East Coast? For Lola Ray, it meant leaving behind everything and everyone they knew and navigating these new experiences of isolation and alienation.
Of course, this makes for some angsty music. However, they kept their “California” sound, an optimistic tone with major keys, driving drums and layers of melodic electric guitar despite rather “downer” lyrics like in “We’re Not Having Any Fun.” They also cover familiar territory in “Officer and a Gentleman,” “Great Divide” and “Quiet Voices” concerning difficulties in relationships caused by distance, whether geographical or emotional, as well as a desire to be heard. John Balicanta’s vocals are becoming more complex than the usual high screaming nasal of most pop-punk acts. The infectious guitar and bass hook in “This House” are more fun to listen to than any “three-chord” bands of the same age. “Wolves” is a languorous desire for human connection in jaded surroundings. Despite going everywhere and nowhere at the same time, this album does hold a unifying concept: growing up. It might not have the same biting edge as I Don’t Know You, but Liars is still worth a listen.