The Lothars

From the December 23-29, 1998 edition of the New York Press.


The Lothars
Camera Obscura

It's easy to loathe the Lothars. This band from Boston has the mark of "side project" written all over it. You know, in indie rock nobody's ever in just one band: Even members of big indie-gone-corporate groups like Yo La Tengo and Sonic Youth slum in various (and meaningless) side projects just to satisfy creative urges that can't be contained within the main group at large. Often these are vanity projects that consist of strictly masturbatory avant-garde excess that no label in its right mind would release --- unless it happened to be owned by, say, Thurston Moore.

In the case of the Lothars, even the parent groups aren't exactly marquee items (unless you think Kris Thompson and Brendon Quinn's prog-and-paisley outfit Abunai! is really the second coming of the Strawberry Alarm Clock). Nevertheless, they're mainstays of the loft-party scene in Boston, and the concept is, at first glance, an interesting one: a band consisting of three theremin players and a guitarist. A novelty act at best, but one that fits right in with the prog-/space-rock phenomenon (a pretentious bunch of fuckers if there ever was one).

Now, I've never heard Lothar & the Hand People, the 60s band the Lothars stole their name from, nor have I seen that documentary that was popular a few years ago about Leon Theremin and his invention, which emits its whooping-cough noise when some fool stands in front of it and waves his arms around. Which is just what the Lothars do, ad infinitem. No wonder the original Lothar & the Hand People were reputedly aghast at the whole concept. Supposedly you couldn't even hear the theremin on the Hand People's recordings anyway, whereas with the Lothars, all you hear is theremin with sometimes a few thumps of a Moe Tucker-like drum and Ramona Herboldsheimer's electic guitar, which is probably the saving grace of the whole affair. On "Sad Song," a heavily distorted guitar leads the way into almost-rocking territory while all those goddamn whistling theremins keep making fire-engine noises in the background. This is "head music" for creeps who don't even take drugs (which is what bugs me about all this Tortoise/Bardo Pond prog-rock bullshit). No --- this is music for librarians. Intense at times, but for the most part a perfect example of the irrelevance of the whole indie-rock scene now that there is no new ground to be broken and everything comes down to a pretentious "experiment" aimed at a small handful of hip and well-educated dilettantes. Psychedelic my ass --- I dropped the acid an hour ago and still can't wait to get into the Bikini Kill.