Picks and Pans Review: The Lost Tropics
Thirteen years ago a quintet called Grammar 101 surprised clubgoers around Norfolk, Va. by painting their faces, giving slide shows, and passing out sandwiches as they played rock 'n' roll. Over the years the band has acquired two new members, moved to New York, and come up with a new name. As the Lost Tropics, their peppy sound has won them fans on the New York club circuit without the fireworks. This is the group's debut album—so much for overnight success stories. It includes 10 original New Wavey tunes. Joining the "arty-party" school of music that the Talking Heads fine-tuned in their early albums, the Lost Tropics move to a metronomic, danceable beat. But they also mix in pop-rock styles reminiscent of the Cars and the Pretenders. The band's art school/ intellectual roots are exposed in Zoo Story, a track about concert audiences complete with genuine wild animal sounds, while their pop has a '60s Top-40 feel in I Think of You. Lead singers Monica Serra and Terry Bacon have a lighter touch than most rock vocalists, while maintaining the necessary bite to compensate for the band's greatest flaw: undistinguished lyrics. All that aside, any rockers who can drag a sophisticated synthesizer-type sound out of an everyday garage-band set of instruments surely deserve some attention.