CD Review: Left Hand Does/Encounter Safety
Luke Sullivan has had his hands in a lot of creative pots. He’s mastered the albums of many artists/bands that we’ve featured here on TWRY in the last year: Daniel Harris, The Doctors Fox, School for Robots, and has also worked with Bryan Murphy of The Shills. He’d been playing as drummer for the locally lauded band Night Fruit, but has now turned his attentions toward Left Hand Does, where he and his pint-sized sister Jean Sullivan are the project’s top brass.
From a band that lists INXS, Rush, and Ween as their influences, when passed a copy of their impending release Encounter Safety, I was expecting cerebral wizardry. Much like Ween, Left Hand Does has a knack for stamping finesse on absurdity, leveling them up from straight wackadoos to sly virtuosos.
Encounter Safety starts out with a pretty fierce guitar line in “Nothing Was The Water Tower,” but mellows as a delicious Jane’s-Addiction-meets-MGMT amalgam. The next track, “Garbage Bag,” is one of the most avant-garde tracks on the release. It leads off with really primitive sounding synth – reminds me of those plastic stick tube toys you could buy at Walgreens, where you’d flip it and a weight inside would slide down to emit a weird robotic groan. The guitar line and the lyrics start to get a bit repetitive, and the bass line throws in glass-clinks and chutes a la Pink Floyd, but just when you start to zone out a bit in the chant, the song gets pop-alt-rock-y about 2 1/2 minutes in. Melding the synth into the rock line before heading back into its recurrent theme, “Garbage Bag” is a headily catchy piece.
“I Don’t Know If I’m Driving” features a trumpety synth and gets a little funky with the bass, but Jean’s suuuuper eerie vocals provide contrast on the track. The song disguises itself as pop, but will grind and confuse your ear follicles a bit, snarling dissonance with melody. The intermittent handclaps keep it human and a little more accessible. “Cheese Grater” also features Jean’s phantom vocals, though it almost sounds like they’re being distorted through a fan. The dirty bass and bright 80s synth make it catchy, but Jean’s vocals are again so dark and gripping that they steal the song to take it far beyond ordinary.
“Turtle Man” flips back to Luke’s vocals, and bobs between etherial and simpler piano segues – like if The Flaming Lips and Ben Folds alternated verses in the same track. The poppiest cut on the album is easily the next track, “Spandle.” With a very classic rock guitar riff, it’s still got a trippy synth bridge that makes it more unique than most radio hits. For the less unconventionally inclined, I’d encourage “Spandle” as the gateway song to the rest of the Left Hand Does album.
“Big Heart” is the album’s only instrumental, a very synth/drum heavy number, which sounds like some underground Mario Bros level where the baddies abound. It’s the album’s last true departure before the final two tracks, “You Can Take Me Home” and “Lost Myself.” “You Can Take Me Home” kind of reminds me of The New Radicals’ “You Only Get What You Give.” I really like the build up at the end of this track, like the end of a grungy power ballad. The album wraps with “Lost Myself,” a calmed progressive-alternative track – a song like this belongs in a John Cusack movie.
On Left Hand Does’ Facebook page, their tagline reads “Does what?” Left Hand Does innovation. Left Hand Does pop, rock, alternative, and funk. Left Hand Doesn’t care, it does what it wants. And Left Hand Does have a CD release show at O’Brien’s on Thursday 12/6. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one drinking a Left Hand Milk Stout.