Revelations from Dominic and The Lucid: FERRET explores countless avenues

It has been five years since the last Dominic and The Lucid LP.

 

In the time between The Lucid and their new record, FERRET, singer/guitarist/songwriter/leader Dominic Lavoie got married and welcomed a daughter. He also recorded a solo album and became the ringleader for a seven-piece band, both called ShaShaSha. Meanwhile, D&TL put out just one song, 2014’s moody “Late Night at The Circus”. As Exposé once sang, “Seasons change / People change,” and based purely on the difference in tone with each successive record – the eagerness of Waging the Wage (2006), the elation of Season of the Sun (2008), the confusion of The Lucid (2011) – as well as the time passed, I don’t think anybody would have been surprised if the band never put out another.

 

Yet here they are with FERRET, a dozen tracks that travel countless creative avenues in just over half an hour. The songs are split between playing to the band’s strengths (strong vocals, memorable lyrics that are smarter than they appear, a locked-in rhythm section) and stretching out further than ever before in regards to instrumentation, recording styles and personal vulnerability.

 

The opening track, “Apex Predator”, tricks you into thinking the band may be on the same trip they were when we last left them – floating through a spacey psychedelic zone where urgency is rarely spoken of. All of a sudden, a guitar begins to feedback and huge booming drums and synth bass groove while a gross solo rips on top. It’s a definite shift to what we have known of D&TL up to this point a great introduction to the record.

 

“Catnip Curious” and “Stoned in The Suburbs” follow and are the most typically “Lucid” tracks here. While the former has a bounce not present since Season, the latter keeps the feel of The Lucid and exchanges that album’s abundance of songwriting puzzles for straightforward simplicity. Though the comfort and familiarity will be a benefit to some listeners, it is actually the next two songs that define FERRET.

 

“11 Week Heartbeat” is the best thing Lavoie has ever written. Built around a beat provided by an ultrasound at the titular time, it is heartfelt and personal, touching upon family history, religion, sacrifice, and the extreme joy and anxiety associated with welcoming a life to this world that you are responsible for. It may be due to the mindset of preparing for my own child, but this song just rips me apart. I am not exaggerating when I say that I find myself in tears every time it finishes. The instrumental cues are perfectly placed, the song so simple yet universal. While “Be in Love” may be the most well-known of Lavoie's compositions, this song is the one he should be remembered for. It is a classic songwriting success on all levels.

 

In a sequencing move that suggests a great sense of humor, the next song – “Solid Gold Julian” – is the most ridiculous the group has recorded. Over BTO-friendly chords, a high falsetto sings about how, “You say you wanna go for a spin,” and it is so awesome that it transcends goofy and arrives at great. It is unafraid of being fun and/or stupid, and this coming after a song discussing serious aspects of life. There are elements of Prince and the Rolling Stones, but it feels like one fronting the other at a roller disco.

 

On the strength of the first half alone (or, since the album was made with the intention of vinyl listening, Side 1), this record is necessary listening. Highlights of Side 2 include: a trip to the French countryside with bridge harmonies courtesy of Steely Dan on “The Boy from Avignon”, the heavier than heavy descending riff and doo-wop breakdown of “You Can Sing”, the arcade-like dream circus of “Commodore SnakeVision” and the Winwood by way of Springsteen (or vice versa) “Madawaska”.

 

While recorded by the band, FERRET is expertly mixed by Jonathan Wyman. One can just imagine Wyman listening through the individual tracks, curiously opening each different file wondering “What could this be?!” Even if you’re not all that into the songs, it’s hard to deny how sonically pleasing the sounds of this record are.

 

Though I have intentionally focused on Lavoie, drummer Charles Gagne is unbelievably solid and delivers great backing harmonies throughout, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Scott Mohler provides tasty guitar leads and interesting keyboard and synth tones, and Nathan Cyr brings his signature complex melodic basslines. But for the first time in quite a while, or at least the first ShaShaSha record, Lavoie’s hands are firmly on the steering wheel and there is a reason the name has changed back to Dominic and The Lucid.

 

FERRET is the best record of the band’s career and, thus far, easily the best record to come out of Maine in 2016.

 

Dominic and The Lucid play All Roads Festival in Belfast, ME on May 21, Portland House of Music on June 17.FERRET is available for pre-order at dominicandthelucid.com

Last modified onTuesday, 17 May 2016 13:42