Rock & Pop Critiques For Geeks

“I have no idea what aeolian cadences are........they sound like exotic birds”    John Lennon


BLOG 20:    The Lost Boys Find The Formula 

With two EPs crammed with catchy indie pop and beautiful ballads, Southampton’s slickest songsters have caught the ears of Mods and musos alike. We present a nerdy appreciation of pop’s finest unsigned band.


The opening track on the first EP showcases the band’s Sixties influence with a clever composition straddling different eras of chord progression. The verse lulls you into a false sense of security with a verse suggesting a stock Four Chord Turnaround so popular of the era (C-Am-F-G). But the chorus shifts to F and throws in a curve ball in the shape of dark, menacing bVI chord (Db at 0.57: “sun’s outside”) that adds cutting-edge rock flavour to the psychedelic pop.

Crazy For You

One of the several anthemic, sing-a-long choruses that Blur might have killed for in their heyday. Harmonically, the chords take a bold ascent from the C major tonic to a major III (at 0.25) that emerges, as with Noel Gallagher, as a favourite Ash ploy. But just when we expect a dominant V chord to complete the cycle, Ash takes us a half-step higher (the Ab at 0.28) clearly evoking the uplifting “things that you do” of the lyric. Even the old trick of the Truck Driver’s Modulation (that sees the chorus recycled in a higher key) is cheekily executed: the G# (at 2.16) apparently set to prime a typical semitone jump, yet we emerge in D, a whole tone up. Clever.

Finally, check how the pure pop of the She’s Electric-style solo is tempered by the song’s cool closing Hendrix chord (D7#9).

Weekend Tales

This gritty tale of the not-so-high life could, lyrically, have graced the Alex Turner songbook. Meanwhile, musically, there are some deceptively subtle turns illustrating how Ash has clearly gone the extra mile to ensure his songs feature harmonic interest. Exhibit A is the retransition (starting at 2.10) of the instrumental section whose Am-Bb-C vamp could so easily have found its F tonic directly in a bog standard IV-V-I. But instead we’re led on a far more interesting tour around the Cycle Of Fifths (Am-Dm-G-C7-F) as surely as the singer’s Saturday night pub crawl.

Loser Rock

The title, lyrics and delivery are reminiscent of another self-deprecating south-coast outfit, The Piranhas, who touted their own brand of loser rock around Brighton, in the late 1970s. The Piranhas never got the girl either, but The Lost Boys’ consolation is a cool chorus whose terrific chord progression tips its hat to Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger. Notice how the second cycle wraps up with a delightful IV-iv Cole Porter Cadence (at the one minute mark) that is also a key feature of Moving Pictures and In My Sleep.

Guitarists will enjoy playing it in context: Ab-Eb-Fm-C-Db-Dbm-Ab.

Moving Pictures

Matching the lyrical theme of movie escapism, the song segues seamlessly between a string of disparate sections that act like scenes from a film - right down to the faux spaghetti western instrumental (at 1.55).

The catchy Cribs-style chorus of I-III7-vi-IV7 (here Bb-D7-Gm-Eb7) is another indie pop blueprint (think Oasis’ Married With Children, Dirty Pretty Things’ Bang Bang You’re Dead, etc)

But balancing the pop euphoria, the ‘Boys’ drop in some darker dynamics - like the moody chord that hangs ominously at 1.03. It’s another example of the band’s favourite IVm chord (Bbm in the verse key of F) that also takes the spotlight in the closing cadence.

From Love To Hate

The Lost Boys’ most ambitious offering to date sees them ditch their loser longing and join the dating game in this cautionary tale of a doomed relationship. Lyrically, there’s a darker side here as the song captures pain and bitterness in a gritty snapshot that stretches compellingly over a full 5.42. The concept is matched musically by some dozen disparate sections, seamlessly sewn together to complement the lyrical vignettes as they unfold.

As such, the song shuns any notions of a conventional pop structure in favour of a ‘journey style’ narrative: a tradition dating back at least to The Kinks (viz. Autumn Almanac) and through to the Arctic Monkeys. Indeed, the whole ‘work’ is book-ended by a mini ballad section in the style of Alex Turner’s When The Sun Goes Down.

Yup, why bother with a concept album when you can put it all in one song?

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A self-fulfilling consequence of their self-styled genre of Loser Rock? Or final proof that what’s left of the record industry can’t spot perfect pop talent even as it oozes effortlessly from the dozen gems Daniel Ash has already penned.

Not Arf…It’s The Lost Boys and Answers On A Postcard span a feast of exhilarating songs across a range of styles.

Catchy tunes, inspiring structures, varied rhythmic textures and a keen sense of ‘light and shade’ dynamics all combine to suggest The Lost Boys are Britain’s most eminent unsigned act.

Here’s a whirlwind tour of just a few highlights from their impressive catalogue, while, in our next blog, we focus on one particular gem for our latest songwriting case study:-

“Daniel Ash… great little songwriter,” is the verdict of Paul Weller, no less. And as arguably the greatest British songwriter post-Beatles and pre-Oasis, The Modfather himself knows a classy tunesmith when he spots one.

Especially when the band in question, The Lost Boys, wear their own Mod and classic British pop roots on their sleeve, with a contemporary indie slant that is the talk of the town far beyond their south coast home of Southampton.

And yet for all the acclaim surrounding their two irresistible EPs, The Lost Boys remain, unbelievably – criminally even - unsigned.

Songwriting aside, there’s much more to The Lost Boys’ charm: from the arrangements to the production and, of course, the musicianship.

Beyond the guitars, check Jason Daniels’ brilliant drumming throughout - especially his slick variations in The Karaoke Age where he elegantly embellishes the beat.

But this taster is just to whet the appetite, click here for our extended muso analysis of arguably the band’s finest song, In My Sleep.