Falling off the Lavender Bridge

Title: Falling Off the Lavender Bridge
Artist: Lightspeed Champion
Label: Domino Records
Catalog No.: DNO 154
Release date: February 5, 2008

Falling off the Lavender Bridge is the solo debut of Lightspeed Champion, aka Devonte “Dev” Hynes, formerly of the English indie band Test Icicles. It’s difficult to know what to make of Hynes in his Lightspeed persona, named for a comic book character he created in high school. His visual style treads somewhere between hipster cool and ridiculous geek enough to make one wonder how seriously to take him, and how seriously he takes himself. At first glance, song titles such as “Devil Tricks for a Bitch” and “All to Shit,” both seem to suggest a harder sound and aggressive vocal style, but strangely, Lavender Bridge inhabits a country-infused rock soundscape dominated by slide guitar and acoustic strings beneath Hynes’s slightly detached croon. Perhaps this is because Hynes left London and traveled to Omaha to record the album, but it establishes that what you see is not what you hear on this record.

This cognitive dissonance between words and music, and the ironic humor that emerges from it, is the crux of Lightspeed Champion’s quirky style. Most of the songs on the album deal with the various heartaches and the awkwardness of relationships gone awry, and the music virtually always conveys an entirely different emotional message than the lyrics. The most pop-oriented number on the album, “Galaxy of the Lost,” details an uncomfortable and drunken first meeting, scored to an upbeat guitar and piano-driven rock groove. “Devil Tricks for a Bitch” details the growing bitterness of waiting on a phone call that never comes, sung intimately with only a pizzicato string quartet as backup. In “Everyone I Know is Listening to Crunk,” Hynes sings of the disorientation felt in the wake of a breakup (“My drawings are starting to suck / my best friends are all listening to crunk / I feel like the world’s gone crazy”) to a swingy country accompaniment punctuated by a jazzy clarinet. The whole album sounds easy enough on a single passive listen, but repeated hearings gradually reveal the high degree of craft and intricacy of the instrumental arrangements. Coupled with the quixotic lyrics, this makes for a compelling indie rock album, appropriately fresh, endearingly dorky, and often indescribable.

Video clip:

An introduction to Lightspeed Champion (from Domino Records, includes interview clips and live performance footage):

Posted by Ann Shaffer