Without pausing to look at the cover of the album it would be easy to mistake Legato Vipers’ first full-length release LV with the soundtrack for a Quentin Tarantino film. A 13-track triumph of grungy instrumentals and sticky desert sound, LV wouldn’t be out of place playing as the background music to a surfing competition in California or a Mexican stand-off.
Made up of bassist Tyler Belluz, guitarists Mike Brooks and Jordan Howard and drummers AJ Johnson and Jay Anderson, Legato Vipers manage to radiate a warm and beachy feel despite being based out of chilly central Canada. The group released their debut EP Quick Slug just one year ago and have already begun touring in order to spread their sunny sound across the country.
A fantastic listen for anyone longing for those lazy hazy days of summer — or anyone who fancies themselves the bad guy in a shoot-em-up western flick — LV succeeds in painting a vivid picture in the mind despite the album’s complete absence of lyrics.
The moment the opening track “Spy Vs. Spy” is fired up, the image that comes to life is one of an old car ripping around the rain-slicked streets of New York City with suited men hanging out the windows, wildly firing their Tommy guns at the vehicle hot on their heels.
From the car chases of old school New York, the listener is transported to a 1960s beach party in the album’s fourth song, “Chocolate Milk.” The guitar and percussion at the beginning are reminiscent of girl group The Ronette’s hit single “Be My Baby” — best known for its use in the opening credits of the steamy classic Dirty Dancing. After this vintage throwback, the song kicks into a heavy-handed blend of guitar riffs that bring to mind a surfer trying to catch the perfect wave.
But the most intense picture that Legato Vipers’ sound creates happens during the rousing chorus of the 11th track “Penetang Hips.” With its energetic beat and high speed drumming, the song manages to sound like something from a Spaghetti Western. You can almost feel the heat of the desert sun and see the sweat dripping down the brows of the renegade cowboys — who in my mind always end up looking like Clint Eastwood — as they flex their trigger fingers and click their spurs.
The mental images that LV creates for its listener are what make it stand out from the albums of other up-and-coming Canadian artists. With indie, folk and acoustic bands being the only ones to make it big these days, it’s refreshing to see Legato Vipers experimenting with the less popular choice of a wholly instrumental album — and doing it well.
It sometimes feels as though music lacking lyrics also lacks substance. When a band’s songs have no catchy or simple chorus to sing along to it is almost impossible for them to make it to the Top 40 list unless they plan on recording songs strictly for blockbuster movie soundtracks. Despite picking the road less travelled in terms of music genre, Legato Vipers exude a ruggedly mature and unique sound that is sure to draw attention to them in the future.
The only criticism to be made of Legato Vipers’ newest release is its repetitiveness. Many of the songs begin with or feature nearly identical guitar chords — but this is fairly understandable when you consider that the band only incorporates the sound of a few instruments. In the presence of lyrics, this uniformity would not be nearly as obvious, but regardless of how repetitive some of the tracks may be, it’s still impressive how much sound the group can squeeze out of their small spread of bass, electric guitar and percussion.
It’s hard not to root for this little Guelph-born band when they can paint such an amazingly nostalgic picture through their sound with just the flick of a drumstick or the strum of a finger. Listening to Legato Vipers can transport you from a gunfight in the saloon of a desert ghost town to a hot and heavy necking session in the back of a car parked along the beach at sunset.
A time machine cleverly disguised as a flimsy plastic disk, LV is a brilliantly nostalgic album perfect for those who aren’t quite ready to let go of those sizzling summer days.