No arena required
The Lights Out goes full-tilt on ‘Primetime’
It takes a grand total of two seconds to situate exactly where “Primetime,’’ the second album by the Boston-based the Lights Out, stands — or rather, roars — on the musical spectrum: those vast and fabled rock and roll coliseums of the mind, where sweat, butane, hairspray, and pyro-ignited dreams collide.
As if the tell-tale time slot of the disc’s title wasn’t a giveaway, the first sound you hear — a pick scrape loudly skidding across a guitar fret board — supplies an instantaneous memory of good old days and nights gone by. Flicked lighters and Foreigner. Diamond Dave and Def Leppard. Whitesnake videos and, for geezers old enough to remember, Frampton glory.
“It’s full-tilt arena rock that’s coming out of club-size speakers,’’ says Lights Out lead guitarist Adam Ritchie, whose band, with singer-guitarist Rishava Green, celebrates the release of “Primetime’’ with a New Year’s Eve show at Church (the disc officially drops New Year’s Day). “A lot of what’s out there right now sounds kind of like a contest in eclecticism. It’s this arms race of who can record the most kitchen sinks or who can wear the furriest animal mask and sound the weirdest.’’
In this micro-genre universe, however, the Lights Out’s brand of buffed, big-hook rock (replete with bona fide guitar solos and gang vocals, even!) may actually sound, to some, like a stranger anomaly than the named gangs of deer, grizzlies, and other assorted game that make up much of the indie-rock landscape these days.
“People who like well-arranged rock music will come up after the show and tell us that we’re scratching that itch,’’ Ritchie says. “The way we recorded [‘Primetime,’ with Boston Music Award-winning producer Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios in Allston] is the sound of a band going for it — and pushing itself to make the records that it can’t buy.’’
In a world of stovepipe jeans and splintered story lines, the Lights Out make broad-shouldered, FM radio-ready rock music (remember radio?) whose latest disc has a time-honored tale to tell: going on the road with dreams of “making it’’ as a band. The group gleaned the disc’s title, literally, from the original branded name of its 10-year-old Dodge touring van, a reliable roadhog they affectionately dubbed “Tim’’ after scraping off the remaining “Primetime’’ letters emblazoned on the back.
The van even figures prominently on the cover art for the new record, as does the reflection in the vehicle’s exterior of the Model Cafe in Allston, the local haunt where the members of the Lights Out first met back in 2005 at a weekly gathering of local musicians and networkers dubbed the “Rock and Roll Social.’’
“All I heard was ‘free beer’ and so of course I was there,’’ recalls Ritchie. “When I got there, I met Rish and Matt [King, bassist] and we hit it off, and I walked out with a demo they recorded thinking, ‘Man, I hope this demo is good because I really like those guys.’ And they probably walked out thinking, ‘Man, I hope that guy can play.’ ’’
Each apparently liked what the others heard, because with drummer Jesse James (yes, that’s his name) aboard, the Lights Out quickly got to work, playing out as much as possible and recording three EP’s — material that provided grist for last year’s bracing full-length debut, “Color Machine.’’ Although Green and Ritchie say the characters depicted on the new album are fictional composites and not meant to be autobiographical — especially that dude who wrecks his relationships in pursuit of rock stardom — the new songs do hit especially close to home.
“I had given up music for a couple of years when I moved to the city, because I was doing the professional thing,’’ Ritchie says. “There’s a song on this record called ‘Can’t Buy a Hero’ and it’s about someone working in a cubicle who can feel their life slipping away from them. They know they’re missing something and it’s something they’re struggling with every day. That’s kind of how I felt. I had to rearrange my life in a way that allows me to have a band in my life, because I went for a while without music and I never want to feel that way again.’’
Still, Green says a good chunk of “Primetime’’ is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. The title track, for instance, “is actually the van singing to us, like, while you guys are out there playing shows being primetime, just remember everything that happens in between — me getting you from gig to gig — and that you have to treat me well. The van speaking to us became a stand-in for all the people in our lives, helping us to make this happen.’’
That four-wheeled behemoth serves another purpose too: “We want people to feel like they’re jumping into the van with us and going off on an adventure,’’ Ritchie says. “Along the way, good things and bad things happen. Sometimes you end the night at White Castle. And sometimes you party all night.’’ So, ultimately, how does being “Primetime’’ feel? Green breaks into laughter before answering: “We’ll let you know when we get there.’’
Jonathan Perry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.