Love Is The Stronger Force by Rick Ajlouny & The Tractor Beams is a collection of songs heavily influenced by the Beatles and other power pop of the ‘60s. There are some interesting textures throughout the record.
The album really opens up towards the middle. “Tough Guys Don’t Dance” is driven by John Lennon-esque piano chords pounding out eighth notes. The melody is very good, and the ascending and descending guitar lines that play between distant Salvation Army Band horns make for great countermelodies. The song takes lots of great journeys, bringing to the forefront the hi-hat, the horns, the piano and the guitar at various times, giving a promenade feel to the listening experience. “Don’t Give Up (On Anyone You Love)” is a tightrope act, balancing piano melodies, rolling drums and bluesy guitar runs. There’s a lot that’s going on at the same time, but the balance is achieved, giving a sense of uneasiness but a controlled one. The final repeated mantra is the first time something feels settled, making for a well-earned release. “Going Back To Work” is a melancholic acoustic number with a great punch line at the end that walks a line between being corny and hilarious. It’s pulled off well and is a nice palate cleanser. “Something For A Friend” is a psychedelic track that revolves around Mellotron-like flute patches and falsetto vocals. Each line is well constructed moving from pads of flutes to a beautiful solo line, the backing vocals answering and enveloping the stratosphere with their harmonies. When the harmonica enters at the end it feels jarring from the lushness of the backdrop, but it’s a welcome contrast and cuts through nicely.
“Post-Apocalyptic Love Song” combines a great keyboard tone with vibrated futuristic guitars. The song builds well into the bridge, the drums sloshing away and driving the song. It’s a great blend of modern, psychedelic and theatrical rock. “And She Cries” has gentle piano chords and chiming guitar arpeggios swirling around the voice. There are some great jazzy stop-time hits and some cheesy strings. There is some Burt Bacharach and Barry Manilow influences throughout. “You” is a trippy melody over XTC-like piano chords and an excellently dissonant oboe-like sound. It blends well into the guitar tone that comes later. t’s a long instrumental, but it functions well combining a multitude of timbres on top of themselves and repeating the jazzy stop-time elements of “And She Cries,” which works here just as well. It’s a good song with a quick exit. “Rane Hall, 1982” is driven by pulsing keyboards and prominent cymbals. The motoric feel that ebbs and flows throughout symbolizes the bus mentioned in the lyrics starting and stopping along its path (and perhaps the heart as well) and makes for a nice leitmotif.
Not all of the songs lock in as well. The album opens with the title track, a Beatles-influenced track of jangly piano, electric piano and melodic guitars. There are some psychedelic elements to some of the timbres including the drums and a low bass like sound. A very ‘60s-inspired harpsichord solo is a pleasant touch as well. The melody is a bit repetitive, however, and most of the timing throughout feels pretty unsteady, never really locking into a strong groove. “Give Her A Kiss” is based around a George Harrison-like acoustic guitar pattern and vocal melody. It’s a busy melody, playing against bar lines and time signatures, but it’s an interesting bounce, even with an easy rhyme scheme in the chorus.
“Carnival Mile” has some mid-era Big Star-ness to its sound with an Anglophonic sound mixed with some trippy sliding guitars. The backing vocals make for good answers to the lead melody and the percussive slapback of the electric guitar’s muted strings really help drive the dreamy groove along. It’s a catchy song, though it does meander a bit towards the end and could be trimmed down a bit in length. “When Plans Go South” has a Flaming Lips influence in the vocal delivery and alternative-rock bass groove, paired with echoing psychedelic keyboard patches. The melody is extremely catchy and fits the chorus very well. Unfortunately, the drums trip over themselves occasionally, losing some of the tightness of the groove. “Baby Doll” is a bubblegum pop song that could fit in the late ‘50s or ‘60s. There’s a bit of a hat tip to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia by combining the chirpiness of the melody and chords along with the much more modern sounding guitar tones. It’s an interesting genre study but doesn’t ever really take off, particularly losing the groove throughout the shuffle.
The album closes with “For The Rest Of Days” that follows Harry Nillson-esque piano and Lennon-esque vocals. The voice is much louder than everything, which is a bit jarring but certainly commands the attention and keeps it throughout. The stop-time hits work well and fit it into the genre.Overall there are lots of good things happening throughout the record. Some editing could really help the best tracks stand out even more.
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