Burlington's Lobot  are possibly the most unabashedly rock-centric band in the area. Unlike other B-town acts, there's not even a hit of jam, jazz, shoegazer, indie-pop or alt-country in their music. With densely layered, snarling guitars and darkly melodic vocals, the quartet's sophomore release, If It's You, It's Me, sounds like a cross between British neo-proggers Muse and American psych-metal architects Jane's Addiction.
Balls-out live performances and a snarky offstage demeanor have won Lobot notoriety on the local scene. The group's spookily serious tunes are offset by an obsession with nerdy juvenilia. Example: They took their name from a minor character in The Empire Strikes Back. Remember the sexually obsessed comic-book geeks in your study hall? Apparently, they started a band.
Drummer/vocalist/keyboardist Dave Wendell's thundering percussive work and soaring vocals form the bedrock of Lobot's muscular sound. Guitarists Dave Putrain and Chris Farnsworth ably handle their six-string duties, providing evocative and well-placed riffs and leads. Bassist Ian MacDowell holds down the low end with equal inventiveness.
Recorded at the "Lobot Lair" by Corbin Smith, the record is, for a local effort, well produced. Opener "Very Best Day" begins with a guitar figure reminiscent of Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" before exploding across the stereo field like aural napalm. The following track, "Lights of Montreal," makes ace use of a Joy Division-esque bass line and guitar harmonics. On this track Wendell's vocals are reminiscent of Brian Molko, leader of English depressives Placebo.
MacDowell's dub-infused, start-stop bass figure on "The Cyprian" provides plenty of space for the guitarists to indulge themselves. Brief, backwards passages and nervous chiming are met by Wendell's vocal, which sounds a like a banshee singing a madrigal. Interestingly, it all works.
"You Bleed, I Buy" features guest violin work by Emily Rose Curin. While the tune's intro and verse sections are captivating, its hook is rather too big. There's a fine line between quality arena rock and the cheeseball variety, and Lobot walk it here. Subsequent track "The Killing Drifter" finds the band unleashing chugging riffs and a disquieting vocal, while closer "4D7" is a raggedy garage rocker whose strength is its simplicity.
If you like darkly atmospheric rock, If It's You, It's Me is sure to impress. Sludgy, sinister and surprisingly melodic, Lobot are a unique breed. Hear them with Morningwood at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge on Thursday, November 17.