In the press release for Loveland, the debut album by Robert Lusson & The Social Beat, Lusson is stated as wanting to “expand and contract upon his current musical desires with the concept of the songwriter as an objective reporter.” While this idea is refreshing and interesting, it’s hard to say where any of this objective reporting is contained within the album. As far as the music goes, the album draws on genres such as blues, rock and folk, sometimes even adding Latin style horns and percussion. Not surprisingly, these are some of the more interesting moments of the album. “Scorpion’s Bite,” the second track of the album, begins with what sounds like a Mexican sing-a-long. The howl of coyotes rest calmly in the background, and the scene that comes to mind is nighttime in a cold, unforgiving desert. Gears quickly shift as the drums break into a folk-punk beating, while a mandolin and makeshift Mariachi band lead the melody. Unlike many of the tracks on the album, Lusson refrains from exaggerating his soulful croon that lands somewhere between Robert Plant and Bob Dylan, which sounds much more natural and much more enjoyable.
A lively Latin swing that creates festive coloring to “The Egalitarian Café” highlights the albums high point. The swinging percussion that drives the third track forward is accompanied by Mona Seda’s superb horn playing, emphasizing the jaunty feel that encapsulates the tone.
Aside from these few bright spots, Loveland consists of songs that try too hard to catch the attention of the listener, sometimes leaving us with more questions after than before.
The first and title track of the album opens with the depressing story of a young girl who is sexually abused by her father, and the rage that she carries because of it. After exacting revenge by shooting her father, she is sent to an insane asylum after he denies her claims (yup, apparently he lives). If the point I’m making is getting tangled up with this confusing storyline, I guess that exactly is my point. Lusson sings about this bleak scene in a life, yes, but in what way is he really “addressing the issues of society” as intended? How is this story objective?
Similarly, the final track of the record, “Waitin’ For The End,” describes a rather gloomy scene, which I might explain if the lyrics didn’t seem to be purposely impossible to understand. Suffice to say, the chorus involves the lyrics, “Flies in the bottle, drunk from the dance/There’s a longshoreman dreaming of a Chinese romance/You’re in the bedroom with my ex-best friend/My head’s in the oven, and I’m waitin' for the end.” As much as I want to believe that there is some deeper meaning behind this, I can’t come up with anything.
There is a big difference between creating a narrative that simulates real life and addressing real issues in a “just facts” manner. After listening through the album several times, I’m still not convinced that Lusson understands what these differences are. The songs draw from many sources, but seem to strive for Bob Dylan-style brilliance, trying to tackle social issues with interesting sounds and unusual methods of storytelling. In this aspect, the album does not succeed. At best, Loveland is a perfectly adequate folk/rock album that neither pushes the listener too far away, nor does it instantly hook a listener in.