LA Littlebear Band – On the Way To the Forum
Albums like this don’t come along often, but there’s certainly a history of these sort of one man bands creeping up throughout rock history and the digital age has certainly produced many. LA Littlebear Band is the brainchild of Sydney, Australia headquartered performing artist Leo Auciello and his sixteen song release On the Way to the Forum will please his current admirers and certainly find him a wider audience than before. Despite the idiosyncratic nature of one man tackling nearly every phase of the album’s development, the material is uniformly accessible and doesn’t lack the warmth we associate with more traditional rock outfit releases. Auciello sings with the unvarnished brio and physicality of a young man and writes quality music supported with equally strong lyrical contributions that set him apart from other practitioners in this chosen area. On the Way to the Forum is a powerful release capable of pleasing a wide swath of fans.
LA Littlebear Band’s album begins with the song “In the Long Ago” and it’s a track that gives listeners a strong inkling of the band’s punk influences. Nothing is ever in danger of running off the rails, but Auciello does a fantastic job of infusing songs like this with just enough danger to make you question his intentions. “Daydream” has the same near rambunctious punk rock vibe, but there’s too much structure filling these tracks to make them all out loose assaults on tradition. They rage with mighty energy, however, and Auciello’s multi-instrumental talents don’t show even a hint of strain dealing with the demands of handling all the instrumentation. One of the closest tracks to outright classic AOR rock is “The Longest Road”, but there’s an uniquely near-unhinged quality Auciello brings to his singing and lyrical content that spins familiar tropes in a different way.
“At the Gates” indulges listeners with a little bit of light space rock before he makes an abrupt turn into Americana sounds on the song “When Your Right”. The latter track makes some surprising use of blues and rockabilly motifs that he will revisit later in the album. It’s quite a moment to hear him cross the line into straight pop music on the danceable track “Magic”, but he makes the attempt go with a combination of pure chutzpah and genuine skill with the form. The retro flair of “Into This World” is another stylistic shift on the album but it doesn’t have the jarring effect you might suppose – there’s a coherence of sound uniting this release that makes even its most disparate elements come together in sensible ways. The acoustic workout “Tin Soldier” is one of the album’s late gems and benefits from some light post-production effects applied to Auciello’s voice. The album’s finale, “Zoot Suit Monkey”, provides a suitably individualistic conclusion to an album that rarely plays by the rules. This is wide-eyed, practically hysterical, jump blues about dark figures all young girls should beware and its nods to blues and rock traditions alike make it deliciously entertaining. It puts an resounding exclamation point on one of the year’s most idiosyncratic releases.
9 out of 10 stars