On “Big Science” by Laurie Anderson, released in 1982, there is the song “O Superman” and eight other songs. I've listened a lot to this record in the early nineties, impressed by her aesthetic posture, but now all I can remember clearly of it is the song “O Superman”.
On “Lost and Safe” by The Books, released in 2005, there is the song “Smells like content” and then other songs. I've listened a lot to this record this last days, but I think with a long term perspective, I'll only keep with me this splendid song and almost forget the remaining ones. But not totally.
There is something on “Lost and Safe” that reminds me a lot of Laurie Anderson – the coldness of the music and the vocals of Nick Zammuto. The way they develop their own artistic point of view, so different from the indie crowds, share with her many common points but at the same time, there is no question of copycat, they just share a similar clarity with her early works. It's art rock, it's the music for the sake of achievement, for constructing contemporaneous pieces, drops on sensitivity on technical explorations, mixing instruments, loops, vocal samples, into digital structures.
Though certainly ambitious, this record is also very direct, immediately pleasant in terms of vivacity and rhythms, as a compensation for the challenges offered to the listeners in terms of often harsh compositions.
It is also a different album for them compared with their debut because on a few songs, Nick Zammuto plays the main role with his vocals and this fact transforms the duo into a new polarized form. These few songs also offer an unsteadiness to the record. As Nick sings on the soft parts of this album, it makes these parts even softer and the remaining ones as an opposition more aggressive. While I liked the vocal samples on “Fought for food” now I have a harder time to fall under their charm as they seem artificial through this new polarization.
Honestly, besides the marvelous “Smells like content”, i also enjoy 'A little longing goes away”, “None but shining hours”, “An owl with knees” and “Twelve Fold Chain”, almost half of the record, because they float around Nick's vocals. "Lost and safe" is an album that grows on you through months. And The Books a band able to obsess you for long too.