Under the Green Desk Lamp…
This Saturday, Dec. 15th, Lutra Lutra will release their new album, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ at the Polar Park Brewing Co. You can get your tickets to the event here.
‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is the group’s first full length LP, and follows their 2016 debut EP, the self-titled ‘Lutra Lutra’. I reviewed the EP here, and have kept it in rotation long after the duties of the reviewer were passed. The funky grooves and witty lyricism have kept me coming back time and again, so when guitarist and lead vocalist Garreth Burrows offered me the chance to review the new LP, I was happy to oblige.
Lutra Lutra are an Edmonton, AB, based band that have been making a respectable mark on the local scene. For more about their live shows, see my review here. Garreth’s sister Katrina Burrows acts as the groups keyboardist and backup vocalist, with Denis Frigon on the drums, and Will Smith playing the bass.
Being an ardent fan of the EP, I must admit some apprehension when Garreth explained that this album was going to be a bit different. While the band’s lineup is unchanged since the EP, Lutra Lutra opted this time to work with a professional producer with a lot of unique input into the sound. This, he explained, meant less of a free-wheeling jazzy sound, and more hard-hitting rock.
With that in my mind, I sat down to discover just what sort of beast Lutra Lutra had grown into on ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’.
1. Psychopath and the Philosopher-
The album opens with its title track, ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’. From the get-go, it’s clear Garreth meant what he said. The titular track brings a powerful, enduring engine of sound. The lyrics match the more in-your-face tone—conjuring images of domestic battery and psychological abuse which Garreth explains are inspired by his cats.
The sound is harder, faster, and a great deal more layered. It’s a clear evolution from the group’s debut EP, yet, Lutra Lutra still maintain their jam-band vibe, trailing off into long, groovy bridges before slamming back into their hard-rocking refrains.
This newfound intensity is further reinforced with the follow-up track, ‘Devils Give’.
2. Devils Give-
This track gives merit to the ‘Philosopher’ in the album’s title. ‘Devils Give’ opens up with a softer tone, slowly building intensity towards a chorus which laments feeling lost amid the moral confusion of modern living.
This track reminds us of Lutra Lutra’s well established ability to mix catchy riffs with potent ponderings, as it waxes about the constraints of conventional ethical weathervanes and the relative freedom of less constrained living.
‘I know we’re all deranged, when devils give and angels take, though we’ll pay for our mistakes…’. This song brings a more contemporary focus than past songs have, and we’ll see more of that to come.
3. Two States-
‘Two States’ was written by drummer Denis Frigon during his time in the middle-east, and opens with a quick riff of guitar and drums before Garreth opens into lyrics of wanderlust and yearning for more. The chorus reflects on the turmoil of seeing both sides of difficult situations.
‘Two States’ moves fast, and its energetic rhythm keeps the song moving with the intensity of its subject matter. ‘Falling to pieces all the time,’ the chorus ends, and on it’s final refrain Garreth’s visceral scream is a chilling exclamation point on the song’s compelling journey.
4. Lost the War-
If ‘Two States’ opened subtly, this one explodes. Straight into the title line with a kick of the drums and a heavy bassline, it stampedes out of the gate with a catchy groove. The song’s immediate catchiness is amplified by the regular harmonizing of organist Katrina Burrows.
The previous tone of sorrow and futility carries over into this song—an interesting contrast to the recurring themes of light and better times on the group’s EP. ‘I can’t seem to believe, everything I read, And it’s hurting my head, it hurts my head, I should have stayed in bed. We’ve lost the war,’ is the familiar refrain of this song, but if the implications are sombre, this dirge maintains the charge of its rhythm section and playful guitar work to ensure this tale of loss is moving in both senses of the word.
5. The Apology-
Building slowly in volume and intensity, ‘The Apology’ is a break down confession of a desperate voice, realizing how little regret is worth, while feeling all the greater the weight of their past.
The song moves with a steadfast intensity, bringing its sorrowful condemnation unceasingly. This is punctuated wonderfully by a playful moment when the music slows and Katrina Burrows softly sings, ‘It’s not the real me,’ capturing beautifully the themes of self-loathing and fear of responsibility echoing through the song.
6. Loving You-
‘Loving You’ was the lead single for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, and its infectious groove and snappy lyrics show why. In a—perhaps unintentional—referential call-back to their EP, Garreth sings ‘Trying to be a king, while you’re pulling the joker around by a string.’
The song continues the tones of condemnation and loss, but its joyful chorus brings a devil be damned sense of wonder and defiance—movingly reimagining the sense of hopelessness into a celebration, and reminding us that there are some joys that outweigh any circumstances. ‘Loving You’ is a rebellion against consequence, and a ballad to the moment; which I think the finer ones may even deserve.
7. Glass Eye-
There’s been a turning point here, and this song comes in with the voice of a self-doubting teacher, striving to impart the wisdoms which perhaps had not been realized in their own life. There is a sense of nihilistic swagger as Garreth brings a growling fury to the words. The drums rage beautifully in the background throughout.
8. Tell Me I’m Alive-
‘Tell Me I’m Alive’ kicks off quick and focussed, the bass working deftly to keep the song moving. ‘Every time I lose my mind, and faith, in the human race,’ reflects Garreth. A jazzy bridge lets the well-honed musicianship of the band shine before pounding back into Garreth’s impassioned plea to feel…anything perhaps. Then the song cuts off suddenly into the playful opening tones of ‘Zombie’.
‘Zombie’ goes from gentle notes to hard-driving chaos in just under a minute, before slowing down to spotlight the powerful diatribe of Garreth’s raging lyrics.
This song has a churning rhythm that can really grab hold of you. If that was the Zombie connection, I’m all the more impressed.
‘Cause I’m a devil when I lie, and I’ll see demons when I die,’ is the obstinate admission of the chorus, a dark reflection for the penultimate track.
10. Eye in the Sky-
The closing track, ‘Eye in the Sky’, is a notable departure in style, shifting from Lutra Lutra’s well-established mix of hard rock meets jam-band groove to a prog-rock inspired track to take the album out on a wildly unexpected yet uproariously fun send off. ‘Eye in the Sky’ lashes out at the lack of control we have in our lives, and its Orwellian undertones resonate strongly with the sympathies of this writer.
‘Eye in the Sky’ is a testament to the versatility of the entire band, with the high-energy tune meshing perfectly with Garreth’s unabashed delivery of the titular refrain.
There’s less cynicism in this song, less hopelessness even. Its simply a recognition of a bleak reality, and an unapologetic ode to the fun we can have in spite of all that. In spite of the ideas driving it, ‘Eye in the Sky’ closes the album with a sense of celebration, reminding us that as deplorable as the world may be, there is still love, and dancing, and good drinks, and great music.
‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’ is a louder, more relentless album than Lutra Lutra’s eponymous EP. It’s darker, and more polished. It hits harder, moves faster, and lasts longer. If it trades in the EP’s sense of hope, it fosters in its place a more resigned sense of celebration.
The most critical evaluation, of course, is that this album is fun from start to finish. Even more—it’s is a blast live, as I described in my live show review last week.
That’s why you don’t want to miss the release party for ‘Psychopath and the Philosopher’, this Saturday at the Polar Park Brewing Co.
Come see a great show, hang with good people, and pick up this fantastic album for yourself. Get your tickets here.
-Brad OH Inc.