THE LIGHTS aren't dead yet. The four-year lapse since the release of their last LP, Diamonds & Dirt, led some to believe the members had just walked away—far from it. The Seattle trio released Failed Graves earlier this year, a collection of discordant rock and roll that is viciously precise while still maintaining the reckless abandon of a band trotting thrift store instruments into a garage for the first time. It's easily their finest effort, and arguably one of the best rock albums of 2010.
The Lights have been perfecting their minimalist slacker punk for more than a decade, keeping their distance from schedules and essentially making records whenever the songs came.
"This band is not an all-consuming thing. It just can't," explains bassist Jeff Albertson. "It always pulls us back—I'd like to think we'll never break up." The members—which include guitarist/vocalist Craig Chambers and drummer PJ Rogalski—are a little older, perhaps more cynical. Real life and family have finally taken precedence over the youthful ritual of being in a band.
Perhaps it's the space they allow each other that makes Failed Graves explode. Look no further than opener "Buttons vs. Boulders," a rumbling and unwieldy monster that sets the album's tone. From there squirrelly guitar lines break and reattach themselves throughout. Chambers' vocals bend in and out of key and even Albertson takes a turn on "Puerto Escondido," a song laden with minor chords that kicks off with the cheery line: "There ain't no sense in leavin', I am gone/Might as well dig a hole and get my gun."
The band keep with the spirit of the dark, at times savagely sarcastic, temperament of bands like Mudhoney, the Melvins, and even Nirvana. Take from that what you will, but Albertson insists that after more than a decade the Lights have found their happy place.
"You know, we're fucked. We're celebrating the inevitable," he says. "We're all going to die some day—might as well celebrate it with a smile on your face."