Album Review – Larry & His Flask “All That We Know”
But if you’re going to make you mark in music, you have to put out albums as well, and not just fleeting EP’s or split 7″‘s. At the same time, it is important to understand that LAHF is a live band first. To attempt to translate the energy of their live show to the recorded format, as well as the personality and brotherhood that make LAHF such a unique project, would be a massively-intimidating task for any band, producer, studio, or label. That is why I’m glad they waited a bit before putting out this album, and yes, it was worth the wait.
The first thing you need to understand about Larry & His Flask is that you can’t compartmentalize the different elements of the band: the chemistry of the members, the music, the words, the wild energy they evoke, and the message the entire package is meant to convey. It is all 100% intertwined, with every element dependent on the others. If they did not put out so much energy on stage, the message would not be conveyed properly. If they weren’t such a tight knit group, the music and words would not carry the same weight. I know you could same something similar about any band, but with LAHF, it is emphasized. Because they are not just a band, and this is not just music.
If I only had a few words to describe them, I wouldn’t even mention their wild energy, or the fun atmosphere they bring to the live show. I would say that Larry & His Flask are a lesson. They are a message. They are the anger of righteous wisdom. LAHF are writing the soundtrack to the great American awakening. They don’t jump around stage and play fast simply as a gimmick. It is a necessary aesthetic to their mission, which is to deliver the knowledge to people that they only have one live to live, and they better get to living it.
Just like you can’t let the speed and antics allow you to overlook their message, you also can’t overlook the top-notch instrumentation and arrangements of the songs, as well as some the most well-arranged and performed multi-part harmonies you will find in music these days. And though they might be one of the best examples of a punk band that traded in their electric gear for traditional string instruments, I think that characterization might diminish the unique approach of their music. Along with all the other elements, LAHF build their music using dark cords and unusual, unintuitive changes and progressions that give them a unique sound beyond any traditional string or punk music.
And the songwriting and lyrics can’t be overlooked either. No, they are not going to wow you with every phrase turn, but the lyricism is far beyond window dressing for a danceable beat, and does carry that gut-checking quality of good songwriting at times. The honesty is brutal, and they follow the old saw of writing what they know about. I don’t know how universally appealing songs about the ragged road life are to the masses, and some might find this “message” I keep ballyhooing a little preachy, but it doesn’t mean those detractors couldn’t learn a thing or two from it.
If you notice, I’m not really contrasting their live and recorded music, because that slippery slope that I alluded to before was navigated quite well. Though there’s six folks who need to get their licks in on each song, this album and these songs don’t feel muddy or busy, and the important elements to a song are never walked-over or buried. There’s no need to talk about individual songs because I like them all, though I will say I am struggling to find a signature song or songs here; the magic bullet if you had one chance to convert someone into a Larry & His Flask fan.
My other concern about this band is it’s long-term outlook. Bands that burn hot can burn out quickly. This is going to be LAHF’s biggest challenge moving forward, is keeping the whole thing feeling fresh, and how to evolve when the youthful energy is not as easily called on. Luckily, they have a lot of diverse talent to call on as well, and a loyalty to the project and themselves which might create a strength for sustainability. My impression is that joining LAHF is beyond a commitment, it is a blood oath. Semper Fi type stuff.
There’s not a whole lot of twang or traditionalism here. This is new school music played on old school instruments. And it’s good. Very good.
Two guns up!
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Preview Tracks and Purchase All That We Know
July 21, 2011 @ 9:29 am
great album, great fellas, great live show no question. i’d say “flags and concrete” is probably my overall favorite track, but ‘slow it down’ is right up there and not a bad song in the lot. music worth talkin about.
July 21, 2011 @ 10:00 pm
Being from the northwest I am aware that these guys came through my town – unfortunately I missed it. I hadn’t heard of them. I won’t be missing them again. Thanks for the review. I am taking it slow and buying the two tracks crook mentions above. I am not entirely sure they are something I will listen to a ton @ home, but we’ll see. I definitely can hear how great they would come across in a live setting though.
July 22, 2011 @ 4:48 am
I’ve been looking forward to an album from these guys for ever a year now. The first time I saw them live was absolutely amazing; the most memorable show I’ve ever seen. I don’t think I’ve been looking forward to any album more than this one, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint! Every track is strong (though some more so than others), and the diversity covered on the album flows perfectly.
July 22, 2011 @ 6:33 am
This is great stuff. I’m actually less into the “traditional” stuff and more of a fan of the newer alt-country, Americana sounds if that’s what you want to call it. Its amazing how many bands are adding new twists and sounds to a historically tradition-based musical style yet still manage to observe those traditions with respect. Great band.
July 22, 2011 @ 7:38 am
I’ve never been to a tea farm. Thanks for taking us along! LAHF has great energy and unique sounds and really enjoys finding the sounds so that they can give it back to the audience. That sets a band apart from just performing to interacting.
Great blog Triggerman.
July 22, 2011 @ 6:14 pm
I got the chance to finally see them live last weekend @ Warped Tour such an amazing group of people and musicians . I totally recommend seeing them live as well as buying their CD. I can just picture them rockin out everytime I listen to the CD and it sure puts a smile on my face.
Chris Lewis "Louie"
July 25, 2011 @ 6:30 am
I just have to say this is my all time favorite album this year. If it’s not nominated as the best album of 2011 so far I’ll be greatly dissapointed. Every song on this album is a gem. The album has so much energy and gets your heart pumping and feet a tapping. I’ve had this album in my truck for the last week and I’m wearing this album out. I’ve always been a guy who rode the line between underground music and mainstream but the more and more I listen to great underground bands like this it’s hard to like much out of mainstream music like I used to.
July 25, 2011 @ 11:59 am
Easily one of my favorite albums of the year! I find myself listening to it almost everyday and haven’t even come close to being sick of a single song. Great review Trigg!
August 4, 2011 @ 12:46 pm
I’d seen some live-things from Larry and his Flask on youtube, and ordered a copy, without hearing a note of it, based on this Triggerman-review. Got my copy today, just finishing the second spin. And I love it, this is some of the most exciting music I’ve heard in a while. I agree that the “hit-single” may not be there, but there’s so much life in this music, it’s never predictable, it’s intelligent. Not quite easy to the ear, but a damn good listen. Sort of reminds me of the first time I heard The Legendary Shackshakers. This is not like any band I’ve seen before.
Makes me want to see them on stage, which means they have to come to Europe. This cd should make that possible. I’ll promote it at my local record-store. Start spreading the news….
I don’t care about the mainstream-pop-country. This is what’s keeping real American music alive.