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Lushes - "Service Industry" | Album Review

by Conor Rooney (@sold_for_scrap)

Take an album that’s thoughtful, beautiful, jarring and melancholic all at the same time. Got it? Cool. Now, take that and lyrically sprinkle in some angst, anxiety and reflections about society at large. Cook at 350 degrees until golden brown, let it sit for awhile and fester until you have something resembling Lushes sophomore album, Service Industry

Mmmm. Fresh baked Lushes, ready to enjoy. 

Lushes is a Brookyln based experimental/post-rock duo comprised of James Ardery (Guitar/Vocals/Synth) and Joel Meyers (Drums / SPD-SX / piano). Their sophomore record, Service Industry, is the follow up to 2014’s What Am I Doing Here? (both released via Felte Records). With Aaron Mullan (Sonic Youth, Magik Markers) recording, and Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Eaters) providing additional production work, the personnel behind Service Industry was pretty damn impressive. 

Lushes were pretty new to me. I had seen their name on countless bills but beyond that, I simply hadn’t gotten around to checking them out. Back in October, with this newest release, I figured it might be a good time for me to come out of my music hole and listen to something I had no context for. Needless to say, I went into this whole experience pretty blindly. The instrumentation on Service Industry is what first struck me. It’s simplicity and sometimes atonal but jagged nature set a dark tone for what I could expect from the album, but if there’s one constant with Lushes, it’s that they’re unpredictable (Is that a contradiction? Maybe. I don’t know). There’s a conflict here flipping between floating vocal melodies over a warm guitar and irregular, chaotic noise (good noise, though! It’s all good). I get the feeling that, throughout the album, Ardery is actively fighting a losing battle with the music itself. 

Lyrically, Service Industry weighs a TON (that’s 2,000 lbs. of words, right there). Throughout everything, there seems be an unshakeable sense of sneering dissatisfaction and anger within James Ardery’s voice. Some of his best lyrics come through on “You Only Have”, which is also probably the standout track on the album. Ardery’s groggy and deadpan vocal delivery works best here, wherein he’s having a one-sided conversation with Joel. Lines like “going through routines that make up the building blocks of your life” and “see Joel we’re all building. One brick at a time” seem to create this sense of disillusionment with society and the occasional mundane nature of life. Towards the end, the drums and spindly guitar tone get louder in their seemingly unstructured form before they explode into a nightmarish brawl. In fact, this vein of pure explosiveness and angst runs throughout all of the songs here on Service Industry (both instrumentally and lyrically). 

Certainly another standout track on the album (and perhaps the most disorderly) appears toward the end. “Circus” erupts with a wildly chaotic saxophone against some powerful drums. Lyrically, Ardery looks to be labeling working within any type of service industry as aimless and dull, while somehow unable to break free. A line like “Just leave the mess and I’ll clean it up, it’ll only take me a day” give the listener an unfiltered sense of his overall dissatisfied and unemotional attitude. Of course not all of these songs are as melancholic as I may be painting them to be. There are points where Ardery’s tone mixes beautifully with the vocal melodies, making for very natural and easy listening. Moments like these don’t last long, but while they exist we should appreciate them. (Maybe wave at them as they float on by). 

When it’s all said and done, what Lushes have created is an album that deserves to be returned to (as many times as you’d like… I don’t judge). In the several times I played it from beginning to end, I still don’t feel like I’ve sucked everything I could from it. It’s strangely fantastic. Live with it, embrace it, and play it again.