Feature, News, Reviews

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse Joins Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee For New Single “We Got To Move” – Debut Album “Los Angeles” Out November 3rd via Play It Again Sam

October 18, 2023
Photo credit: Pat Martin

Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse Joins Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee For New Single “We Got To Move”

New Video ft Brock + Fred Armisen

Debut Album “Los Angeles” Out November 3rd via Play It Again Sam

Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee will release their hard-hitting, much-anticipated album Los Angeles on November 3 via Play It Again Sam. The album’s 13 tracks dive into freedom and slavery, beauty and decay, hope and despair, and feature an astonishing list of guest vocalists and musicians – The Edge (U2), Civil Rights avant-garde artist Lonnie Holley, Mary Lattimore, Starcrawler wild child Arrow de Wilde, Mark Bowen (IDLES) and more. Having previously shared videos for “Los Angeles” ft LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and “Ghosted At Home” ft Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, the band shares their frenetic new single, “We Got To Move” featuring Modest Mouse singer and frontman Isaac Brock. 

Of “We Got To Move,” the band note: “This is one of the more existential tracks on ‘Los Angeles.’ It’s an homage to Philip Glass, Ron Fricke and Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, with words by Isaac Brock,” notes Budgie. 

“Isaac is one of the most unique voices that we have. He’s brilliant,” adds Jacknife. “He gave us this weird, anxious, beautiful rush of a song. To pump up the duality within the song my daughters and I came up with a chorus that made us giddy with its ridiculousness. The song is absurd. The sound is absurd. And it’s about bugs.” 

With its eclectic mix of styles, Lol also asks, “Where else do you get Strings, DAF synths and Bhangra-Punjabi style percussion? Plus you get Isaac Brock and Jacknife and his daughters singing up a beautiful storm of a track.

The track comes accompanied by a suitably unhinged, raucous video directed by Daniel Rashid which features musician, comedian and actor Fred Armisen letting it all out alongside Lol and Budgie, and a disembodied Brock. “The video has me and Lol as Clockwork Orange Droogs Drumming on a Cadillac, while Fred Armisen takes a Sledgehammer to a WC,” notes Budgie. Armisen adds, “I loved being a part of this. I feel very lucky that I got to work with Budgie and Lol… It gave me a feeling of ‘drummers unite!’”

The album Los Angeles was born out of a curiosity which just wouldn’t die. Made up of two of the most illustrious and inventive drummers of the post-punk era, The Cure’s Lol Tolhurst and Budgie from Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Creatures, along with stellar producer and multi-instrumentalist Garret ‘Jacknife’ Lee, this unlikely alt-supergroup have spent the last four years spiriting up one of the most extraordinary albums to appear in 2023. 

Perusing the track list with its guest credits, you may rightly wonder just what the 13- track long-player holds in store. The answer: a hard-hitting and compulsively exploratory 55-minute electronic head-fuck, founded on unrivaled rhythmic expertise, fleshed out with an armory of synths, guitars (Jacknife’s forté) and supplementary percussion, often overlaid with elite-class strings and brass, then universally twisted, manipulated and quite masterfully sculpted by Lee, with his super-producer’s hat on. 

In addition to the album, Lol Tolhurst will also release his second book, GOTH: A History, on September 26 in the U.S. via Hachette Books. The engaging historical memoir of Goth music and the culture explores creative giants like The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Joy Division, and many more great bands that offered a place of refuge for the misfits of the 80s and ever since. GOTH offers a fascinating deep dive with stories and anecdotes from Tolhurst’s personal memories as well as the musicians, magicians, and artists who made goth an inevitable and enduring movement.

This electrifying collaboration has installed some serious excitement and now their release has dropped, the anticipation was certainly worth it. This fierce introduction to the expressive layers of this track engulfs you, then the deep low-end and dense notes emerge, and the drum claps and mighty slaps move the journey upon its crucial tracks. Isaac’s renowned vocal tones join and deliver this vibrant character into the arrangement. As the percussive play of this creation cemented the addictive qualities and loops the textures as a magnet for the score, Isaac’s tones and lyrical course keep the audience fixated on this expressive and rapid release. The additional softer harmonies carry the dazzling notes and inject this fragility into the formation. 

With this release, the energy of each musician just elevates this track to this vital status, as the audience embraces and utilizes that energy and power on offer, the track delivers this infectious appeal. Prepare to hit repeat.

Square one for Los Angeles was December 2018, when Budgie was passing through LA in esteemed singer songwriter John Grant’s touring ensemble, and he and Lol Tolhurst met for lunch in a downtown diner. Recalls Budgie, “As we were finishing, Lol turns to me and says, ‘I think we should do something together.’ With these things, I usually go away and forget, but for once in my life I said to myself, ‘Yeah good idea!’”

After leaving The Cure in 1989, Tolhurst “found love,” married and, in 1994, settled in LA. Budgie almost moved to the City of Angels in the mid-’00s but, eventually, he says, “fell in love, moved to Berlin, and family happened.” When the pair reconvened in early 2019 to make music, they had a couple of sessions – first at a friend’s house up the coast in Morro Bay, then chez Mötley Crüe tub-thumper Tommy Lee, no less, “but it just wasn’t sounding right – we were falling into that trap of trying to paint ourselves as we once were.

In what he describes as “a pit of despondency,” he went up to Topanga Canyon to visit Garret Lee, ten years their junior, but whose enviable production CV includes Taylor Swift’s Red, U2’s How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb and the final two REM albums. His advice, in true post-punk fashion: rip it up and start again. “Once you’re starting from nothing,” he advises, “you can do anything.” When Budgie returned to California between commitments with John Grant, the three kindred spirits first repaired to Yosemite for a bonding weekend, and thereafter recorded in Topanga for two weeks, with Lee cannily straddling the roles of musician and mentor-cum-producer. They’d drink coffee, play records, banter a lot, go for walks, share experiences, and out of all that came, this time, some inspirational music.

A very special group chemistry emerged during those intensely creative sessions. Reveals Budgie, “Lol is very leveling. He calls himself a pragmatist, whereas I’m very impetuous, and it was like Garret was bridging the two, in his consultation room.” The other instrumentation came naturally. Back in his days with The Cure, Tolhurst switched from drums to keyboards circa ’83, and Budgie, too, was grappling with early synths through that era, so it was only natural that ‘Los Angeles’ would be brimming with synths. For Lee, with two elite drummers aboard, it was an opportunity to break from the grid-locked inflexibility of contemporary electronica.

As the record evolved, there would be instrumental contributions from noted guitarists, including The Edge and IDLES’ Mark Bowen, but the rest were handled by Lee, and often digitally distorted beyond all recognition. Further visitors to Lee’s Topanga hideout were master orchestrator Davide Rossi (Goldfrapp, Coldplay) and brass specialist Jordan Katz (Father John Misty, Ghostface Killah), whose taut arrangements were similarly manipulated, and even run at half speed, for maximum disorientation and weirdness.

Come March 2020, they were fairly certain they were just about done recording an instrumental album “which was the original intention,” says Budgie, but as he flew home to Berlin just as COVID-19 was forcing the whole world into lockdown, Lol had taken the step of contacting post-punk fan James Murphy with a vague idea of him voicing on one or more of the tracks, and in those first fallow weeks of isolation, Lol put feelers out to a few other friends and admirers to see if they might also be interested.

After plunging into the unknown with their own music-making, then navigating the unplannable chicane of Coronavirus, it’s frankly a miracle that Tolhurst, Budgie and Lee came through four years later with an album so coherent and hard-hitting – about freedom and slavery, beauty and decay, hope and despair. Plans are afoot now to take Los Angeles into the live arena, and spread the word far and wide about this miraculous record: future facing, empowering, and on its own terms thoroughly triumphant.

1. This Is What It Is (To Be Free) [with Bobby Gillespie]

2. Los Angeles [with James Murphy]

3. Uh Oh [with Arrow de Wilde and Mark Bowen (IDLES)]

4. Ghosted At Home [with Bobby Gillespie]

5. Train With No Station [with The Edge]

6. Bodies [with Lonnie Holley and Mary Lattimore]

7. Everything And Nothing

8. Travel Channel [with Pam Amsterdam]

9. Country of the Blind [with Bobby Gillespie]

10. The Past (Being Eaten)

11. We Got To Move [with Isaac Brock]

12. Noche Oscura [with The Edge]

13. Skins [with James Murphy]


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