“We weren’t built to last; we were built to explode,” croons Matt Kerstein. The lead singer of Chicago-based quintet Brighton MA delivers the line evocatively in “Bulletproof,” the opener for the group’s sophomore release Oh Lost—and at first, one is tempted to believe him.
Unfortunately, the sonic vitality seen in “Bulletproof” is the exception rather than the rule on an album largely in the same mold as the indie-rock multitude. The shimmering, trembling guitar chords soon give way to pedestrian soundscapes—forgettable at best, and sagging at worst.
A low point comes during “Thirst,” when awkwardly syncopated notes steadily drill into one’s skull, like maggots feasting into carrion.
That said, Oh Lost is not devoid of merit. “Sweet Delusions” is a standout, with its smoky bass line and guitar solos that rip its chords to shreds. “Good Kind of Crazy” channels a calm, rustic sweetness, charming listeners with clear instrumentation, and lyrics about the “summer breeze” and “swinging through the back porch screen.” Perhaps the most valuable asset for Brighton MA is Kerstein’s vocals, which are front and centre in nearly every track (and for good reason). Kerstein’s voice is nuanced, raw, and weathered, cutting through often listless arrangements with power and confidence.
In this day and age, it is not enough for indie-rock bands to simply push vague themes of ‘youth’ and ‘rusticity.’ Oh Lost’s melodic and lyrical mediocrity is not a death knell for the group—but it certainy is a wake-up call.