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Take a peek into the Looking Glass War, and it’s easy to determine what comes into view. For John le Carré’s 1965 spy novel, what reflects back is an exploration of the unglamorous nature of espionage and the danger of nostalgia. Nearly 60 years later, the incendiary Boston post-punk glam band, which takes its moniker from le Carré’s classic, reflects back something similar yet entirely different: An exploration of the unglamorous nature of nostalgia and the danger of the modern day.
That exploration comes into full panoramic view with Where Neon Meets the Rain, Looking Glass War’s debut EP that The Big Takeover is proud to share with you today.
After the summer release of a pair of singles – July’s propulsive and attention-grabbing debut “Arrive!” and August’s expansive and shoegazing “I Can Tell By The Cars” – the EP is rounded out by two new tracks: A feverish guitar-rock ripper called “A Tsar Is Torn” and the anthemic EP closer “A Gun On A Wall In A Scene.” Heard together, the EP’s four blistering tracks showcase a solidified vision from its members – vocalist Goddamn Glenn, guitarist Pete Zeigler, Mancunian ex-pat bassist Mike Ackley, and drummer Tony Porter – that recognizes the past without trying to repeat it. After all, that nostalgia can be so unglamorous.
“Many people have told us that they hear something reminiscent of the ‘80s and ‘90s in our music, but that it’s done in a fresh, new way,” says Porter. “I’m psyched to play a part in offering a set of songs that appeal to different generations of rock fans.”
Adds Zeigler: “The song-to-song flow is the real first statement from this band, as this EP shows different sides of the whole Looking Glass War sound. As Tony said, we are taking classic post-punk and indie sounds and moving them beyond the derivative and into new territory. Familiar underpinnings but with new twists. That excites me and it isn’t something people get a lot of.”
What music fans in 2023 also don’t get a lot of is a new band with as much to say as Looking Glass War. Brash debut single “Arrive!” embodied a sense of feeling both older while realizing there’s more road ahead, a spirited call to live in the moment. Its follow-up, “I Can Tell By The Cars,” slowed down the tempo for a shoegazing glide that led to an anthemic and explosive chorus, all while lamenting society’s oncoming troubles by surveying the bumper stickers we all see on the highway every day.
“The reason why ‘Arrive!’ was such a fitting opening salvo is that it’s fairly existential,” says Glenn. “There’s a lot of looking back and ahead at the same time. I think that perspective looms throughout all four of these songs in some manner. My nearly 100 year old grandfather passed around the time I started writing lyrics for these songs. I can’t help but think that’s why I’ve been feeling so existential and that my words are heavily informed by that headspace.”
In the two new songs, those themes are furthered – and it’s no coincidence that the order of the singles rollout mirrors that of the EP’s track listing. Like two tracks on each side of the record, this month sees the flip side coming into sonic view with the urgent single “A Tsar Is Torn,” which leans back into the adrenalized post-punk of “Arrive!,” and closing track “A Gun In A Wall In A Scene,” which stretches out into the open-air festival ambition of ‘90s Britpop and alternative rock territory.
“One archetype that has seemed to dominate nearly the last eight years of news cycles is that of the powerful megalomaniac who is willing to burn everything down in their own name,” says Glenn. “‘A Tsar is Torn’ is about how we continually elevate these types of people and help them preserve their own power even when it’s to our own detriment.”
Of “A Gun On A Wall In A Scene,” he adds: “There’s been a kind of breakdown of the barrier that separates the artist from their audience, namely as a result of social media. That’s one idea I’m playing with. That the artist has become much more ‘responsible’ not only for what they create but also everything that they say and do. The other idea is simply that, very often, our fate is clearly spelled out for us far in advance if you just follow the clues. If you are shown a gun on a wall in a scene, it’s done so for a reason. The question then becomes who’s going to pull the trigger and who’s going to go down in the end?”
Where Neon Meets the Rain – its title taken from a lyric in “Arrive!” – was produced by Brian Charles, with assistant engineer Adam Hand; recorded in Massachusetts at Mad Oak Studios in Allston and Rare Signals in Cambridge, MA; and mastered by Peter Linnane. Each track has its own distinct personality and identity, but when aligned together, they combine to make a bold and forceful declaration. Not only of musical range, crafting all the styles and influences of a band of musical veterans making the type of music they themselves would want to listen to, but also pairing this raw, magnetic sound with a message that reflects the tension and uncertainty that seems to mark each passing day of this uneasy modern age. It’s music for the countdown to midnight, at a time when we’re not sure if tomorrow will even happen.
“I’ve been in several bands over the years but musically this one just clicked straight away,” says Ackley. “We all have a lot of experience and bring slightly different influences that converge to create amazing music – the songs almost write themselves. These are songs that I would choose to listen to at home.”
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