Lights Rites

[Drag City; 2009]

Styles: acid rock, funk, English folk
Others: Fleetwood Mac, Luscious Jackson, Jane’s Addiction

As far 1970s influences go, Fleetwood Mac have always been a bit shortchanged. Perhaps it was their frequent flirtations with the mainstream or their purist approach that led to their stature as lesser inspiration points, but the last three decades have seen Iggy, Can, Zeppelin, and Bowie being heralded, mimicked, and borrowed from endlessly; the best that the Mac’s legacy has garnered in the mainstream is a Dixie Chicks cover of “Landslide.” Therefore, it’s quite welcome to encounter an album like Rites, the second offering from the Brooklyn-based band Lights, which neatly gives ode to Mac's aesthetic.

More fully realized than their 2008 self-titled debut in both its musical dynamics and thematic scope, Rites plays to the same loose, vocal-based, genre-defiant modes that made Fleetwood Mac, and particularly their landmark double-player Tusk, so memorable. There are spritely harmonies embedded in hard rock grooves and wisps of English folk, with even a cover of Tusk’s Bunkingham-penned ballad, “Save Me a Place.” But Lights expand their sound into other areas too, as the album contains some serious boogie elements as well as intermittent doses of acid-rock guitars. Traces of Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Nick Drake, and even Luscious Jackson merge to create a palate of nine dense, pleasantly dance-oriented tracks.

But Rites is also a bit under-realized. “Heavy Drops” would be in contention for Single of the Year if the mix didn't drown out the lush layer of woodwinds and keys with throbbing guitars. The sax solo on “Can You Here Me?” is nicely played, but far too rushed to add tension to an otherwise well-crafted song. “Fire Night,” a funky, groove-laden track, replete with mystical-romantic imagery and French-Gainsbourg-esque interludes, is obscenely interrupted by blazing guitars, grossly overstating the melodic chorus: “Dance until the early dawn/ Dance until the ember’s gone.”

Overall, however, Rites sees a developing band with an exciting upswing, just a mix or two away from being great. Full of craft and purpose, enchanting and creative, Rites is a promising tease of better things to come.

1. Heavy Drops
2. Can You Hear Me?
3. Love
4. Hold On
5. Fire Night
6. We Belong
7. War Theme
8. Nothing Left to Build
9. Save Me a Place

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