The late Jay Lindsey's back catalog is being plumbed in the wake of his tragic death in 2010. And with so much music recorded and disseminated in the decade before his breakout, most of it unknown to his most recent fans, there's plenty of material worth reconfiguring and re-releasing.
But no Lindsey re-release will be as essential as Blac Static, the new one-disc compilation from the Lost Sounds, Lindsey's musical partnership with co-frontperson Alicja Trout and drummer Rich Crook — a great band that never got its full due.
The track listing for this Fat Possum release was chosen by Trout and Crook and is drawn almost entirely from the band's first three proper albums, 2000's Memphis is Dead, 2001's Black-Wave, and 2002's Rat's Brains & Microchips. A fourth and final proper album, 2004's Lost Sounds, is represented only by a demo version of the album's "I Sit I Watch I Wait." Unlike the first three albums, Lost Sounds was released on the In the Red label and is still available. Trout, Crook, and Fat Possum chose to focus this compilation, instead, on the albums that are now hard to find. It's a reasonable strategy, though I miss, in particular, Lindsey's rattling "I Get Nervous" from Lost Sounds.
The band's novel mix of no wave and new wave channeled the garage thrash of Lindsey's Reatards and the springy synth-rock of Trout's the Clears into its own style — a dark, propulsive, carnivalesque sound wrung out of salvaged instruments. It was punk rock on their own terms.
The purposeful bookends here are knowing testaments to Lindsey. Riding a cresting wave of relentless but almost stately guitar and keyboard, Lindsey describes a troubled childhood home on "1620 Echles St," asking, "Is this the life for me?" It's as essential a recording as he produced at any point in his too-short career. And the final "I Sit I Watch I Wait" hints toward Lindsey's subsequent solo work.
But, on the whole, Blac Static captures the band accurately, honorably, and gloriously rather than cherry-picking Lindsey-specific highlights to retroactively make the Lost Sounds seem like purely a proto-Jay Reatard project.
Trout's essential Black-Wave statements of principle, "I'm Not a Machine" and "Reasons to Kill" ("This town is filled with reasons to kill/But everybody wants to sing the blues"), are here. And though the band's metal-machine-music side is represented ("Dark Shadows," "Radon Flows"), Blac Static tends to capture the band at its tuneful yet still uncompromising best.
While the Lost Sounds are a definitive part of Trout's musical past, her present is partially represented by another new release, Cicada Sounds, the latest from Mouserocket, a local band in which Trout showcases her more melodic side in partnership with co-bandleader Robby Grant (Vending Machine, Big Ass Truck).
With cellist Jonathan Kirkscey — also a Lost Sounds vet — adding a sonic signature, Mouserocket might be the city's most polished, reliable, and self-assured pop-rock band right now, and this brief album — eight songs in just under 30 minutes — adds further evidence.
Trout explores parenthood and domesticity more than ever before, subtly on the opening "I Can't Keep My Hands Off U" ("Dishes, dishes go away/Smash them all and make them pay/I used to run from here to there/Now you are my everywhere"), more directly on the sweet "How to Say No."
Cicada Sounds is particularly heavy with Trout-led tracks, but Grant remains in fine form. His "Take More" starts as a nimble, gently psychedelic tunelet and evolves into full-on surging rock that could be tweaked into a Foo Fighters song. — Chris Herrington
Grades: Blac Static: A; Cicada Sounds: A-