L.S. Dunes – ‘Past Lives’

By Sean Reid

Throughout the history of music, so-called “supergroups” have had mixed results. Audioslave, Velvet Revolver and Them Crooked Vultures are three examples of “supergroups” finding success, and then there are collaborations that many want to forget such as Lou Reed and Metallica. Nevertheless, when members of established bands come together, it’s a mouth-watering prospect.

For anyone who’s followed the post-hardcore and alternative/emo rock scene for the best part of 20 years, the idea of members from My Chemical Romance, Circa Survive, Thursday, and Coheed And Cambria teaming up is an exciting one. Formed during the COVID-19 pandemic by Thursday’s bassist Tim Payne and drummer Tucker Rule, they soon added guitarists Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) and Travis Stever (Coheed & Cambria). Coincidentally, Circa Survive vocalist Anthony Green was seeking out new collaborators. Cue the formation of L.S. Dunes.

Their debut full-length, ‘Past Lives’, is the culmination of this new collaboration. Leading with ‘2022’, there is an instant sense of familiarity due to Green’s distinct voice. Whereas the pairing of Payne and Rule provides a dense rhymic base, as Iero and Stever trade succulent guitar parts. It’s a suitable opener that meets any pre-conceived expectations.

Unsurprisingly, ‘Past Lives’ is a musically accomplished record, embracing each member’s individual experiences. Underpinned by a surging rock and punk-fueled energy, songs such as ‘Antibodies’ and ‘Like Forever’ are ferociously delivered, with Green’s scathing vocals battling for attention with Iero and Stever’s riveting guitars on the latter as Rule holds it all together on drums.

As the record rolls on, ‘Past Lives’ is an effective yet rarely exceptional record. ‘Blender’ thrives on a rolling drum pattern and more soaring guitar work. It’s a compelling number that leans towards the traditional rock side of proceedings. The title track allows Payne’s bass to rumble along as Rule accentuates each drum beat early on before allowing Stever and Iero to shine during the midsection. ‘It Takes Time’ is a gritty, reflective number with playful guitars before ‘Bombsquad’ thrives on soaring guitar lines.

With Will Yip (Tigers Jaw, Menzingers, Code Orange) on production duty, L.S. Dunes produce a raw-but-rich sound yet tends to drown on Green’s vocals. Such is the case on tracks like ‘Bombsquad’, where Green is fighting to take centre stage against the duel guitar work. It’s equally frustrating and captivating.

While for the most part, each member’s other bands tend to write the occasional big hook, ‘Past Lives’ opts to go against the grain, preferring to highlight their musical abilities. The closest we get to a memorable chorus is on ‘Grey Veins’ with the centre chorus line of “I want to kill time like it doesn’t matter”.

Admittedly, there is a stench of L.S. Dunes being a side-project throughout. However, ‘Past Lives’ thrives on the energy and enthusiasm that the five-piece individually and collectively provide. The penultimate track (and recent single) ‘Permanent Rebellion’ is a fine example of just that; utilising each member’s abilities to create a ferocious slice of post-hardcore.

‘Sleep Cult’ brings ‘Past Lives’ to a close with its alt-country sway and Green’s swooning vocals. It’s a fitting albeit limp finale absent of the abundant energy that came before it.

Overall, ‘Past Lives’ accomplishes L.S. Dunes’ goals in musically seperating itself from any of the member’s better known projects. Sure, there are flashes of comparable moments, yet ‘Past Lives’ comfortably finds a middle ground that allows the band to become its own thing. Although it’s far from the perfect “supergroup” outing. The constant imbalance between Green’s distinguishable vocals and his band mates is a nagging issue. Yet ironically it benefits the record, allowing L.S. Dunes to probably sound better than they should on their first outing.

With tour dates in place, you get the impression that the stigma of being a fleeting side-project will wear off as L.S. Dunes grow. ‘Past Lives’ is a suitable introduction, highlighting each member’s strengths while not stylistically stretching too far away from their individual roots.

SÊAN REID

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