Lost on Liftoff: Lost on Liftoff

Mapping the stars

Lost on Liftoff’s debut launch is on course

Lost on Liftoff’s self-titled debut EP had no business being released in the dead of winter, early 2006. The bright heat it radiates only mad us pine for the warmth of summer rays all the more. Oh, the sentiments are dark, sure, wonderful retrospective melancholy mixed with plenty of jilted bitterness, but they’re delivered with such pop intensity you can veritably warm your hands by them.

I don’t care if the first song does bid a “Goodbye Summertime.”

It’s no surprise that former Goud’s Thumb and 6gig frontman Walt Craven professes a simple focus for his third foray into the Portland music scene and beyond. “The song is king,” he says. “The songs are the spotlight and not any one particular person or instrument.”

That’s a lot easier to say when you surrounded by the talent Craven is in Lost on Liftoff. He counts himself lucky Nick Lambert (Chaos Twin, guitars and vocals), drummer Shane Kinney (Broken Clown, and whose column I edited for about a year as part of the once and future FACE Magazine), and bassist Dan Walsh (known as Shifty, also from Chaos Twin) called him up and asked him to join a project they’d been playing around with for a year or so.

“I’ve known Nick for a long time and I knew that Nick was a great songwriter, so I was pretty excited,” says Craven. “I was floored by the songs that they were working on and I called Nick back immediately and said, ‘I’m in.’ ”

Good thing for us he did. The four-song tease they released January 31, 2006, is loaded with huge singalongs and compelling rock and roll. That’s right, rock and roll. Can we be excused if we like risk hearing damage in the car on the way to work? No, you can’t have a conversation over this. Shut up and nod your head.

How about a chorus like this: “We’re naked and wasted, and we’re waiting / Waiting for the moment to take us, from frustration into patience / Forward till the end of the line.” Coming at the end of “Naked and Wasted,” which finishes the disc, this echoes a frenzied 16 minutes of music that strips you down and shoots you up.

These are progressive songs that love every bit of the verse-chorus-verse construction, but don’t think just one type of verse, or one type of chorus, is quite enough for one song.

So, in the four-minute “Goodbye Summertime,” we’ve got a standard opening verse — containing the lovely sentiment, “Take me apart by bolt and screw / Keep on poking holes in my spacesuit” — that leads into a melodic pre-chorus. Then we get chorus part one: “Goodbye summertime, another year to wonder why / I feel left behind, another way to say goodbye.” This is your traditional yelled chorus, the everyone-stands-up singalong. Oh, wait, but then we get chorus, part two: “I’m doing fine without you,” delivered in traditional ballad chorus fashion four times all melancholy and subdued, emoted with increasing force.

Great juxtaposition. There isn’t a throwaway transition or verse on this entire EP.

Yet “40 Miles” is still the obvious single. It separates itself immediately with the two guitars repeating a quick 16-note, measure-long lick that carves out a back-ended high hook. Walt enters over the still-spare background: “Forty miles to go, and there is no summer / Could you take me home? Could you be yourself?” Kinney’s drums punctuate the end of each line, while the guitars support in a kind of holding pattern, like restless caged animals. “I can feel the sway beneath my feet as we go…”

An entreaty serves as transition to the chorus before, whammo, here comes the big singalong. You’ll have it down by the time the first listen ends, so I won’t bother typing it out, but don’t forget to listen for Kinney’s snare. It has some interesting deviations, sometimes solidly on the one, other times throwing in little hiccoughs on the 2 and 4. Don’s miss his fills, either, coming into the chorus. Not that you could.

The song is just as just-plain-catchy as anything Blink 182 ever wrote, but with more depth of feeling. It doesn’t feel that disposable, nor does it feel written for a 14-year-old girl. Though the 14-year-old girls ought to like it just fine (those who forget that 14-year-old girls drive the record market are destined to become “underground”). The jokes are simply too obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: There ought to be a little bit more 14-year-old girl in all of us.

There’s some in Lost on Liftoff, that’s for sure: “There’s just a cool, ego-less atmosphere and there’s an open mindedness involved that makes it very easy to try new and different things,” says Craven. “Plus, the music is just fun to play.”

Fun to listen to, too.

Photo Credit: Robyn Kanner