Saturday, February 27, 2010

LMP - Graduation Angel

Only LMP, a duo with more ambition than Brian Wilson at his zaniest, could conceive and actually follow through with Century of Song (2004), a six-CD set of cover songs from every year since 1900. But LMP's strange story doesn't start there. In 1992, Ryan Bessler and Eric Haugen formed the band in Champaign, Illinois, naming themselves Lorenzo Music after a voice-over artist with the same name. Two years later, the group landed on Conan O’Brien's College Band Contest with the goofy, but catchy, "Where's the Zamboni?" By that time, they had changed their name to Le Musique Populaire, commonly shortened as LMP.

After this much-needed publicity boost, the duo developed aspirations that seemed to know no bounds. After building their own studio and hiring twenty guest musicians, LMP were beginning to look like the Emerson, Lake, and Palmer of indie pop. The duo kicked off their recording career with Aunt Canada, an extravagant album that often showed a band painfully out of their league. However, LMP more than made up for the album’s faults with ingenious arrangements and an endearingly loopy sense of humor.

The group encountered problems recording the follow-up LP. More than two hundred songs were attempted, but none were finished. Perhaps the duo just couldn't multitask; they were, after all, still in the midst of the Century of Song project at the time.

LMP finally released their first new original songs in 2001 on the EP The New Body Language. The five tracks showed a newfound maturity and a greater grasp of song craft surely absorbed from their two year affair with the American Songbook. "Graduation Angel," the EP's highlight, shows a terrific sense of melody coupled with thematic songwriting straight out of the Brill Building. "Nosferatu" is also a delight, showcasing the conceptual humor that LMP is known for.

The band released their final album in 2003, Love Conquers Alda, and slowly faded away. Sadly, the band appears to be on extended hiatus and there are no immediate plans for new material.

For an extended interview with the band that I wrote five years ago, click here.