Taking a turn at center stage.
Why is the bass player so often the member of a band that seems like a silent partner? For every Sting or Flea or Bootsy or Sir Paul, there are dozens that are best known as “that other guy” from any given band. They are either shy and unassuming, eschewing the limelight, like the John Deacons of the world, or they are overpowered by the intense, white hot personalities of the other members of the group, a la Michael Anthony. Nate Mendel, formerly of Sunny Day Real Estate and currently of Foo Fighters, is one of those hard working musicians whose contributions to their band is as essential as it is easily overlooked. After a career that has spanned almost three decades, he has finally taken matters into his own hands and recorded a proper side project/solo album, If I Kill This Thing We’re All Going to Eat for a Week, under the name Lieutenant.
Immediately, comparisons can be drawn to Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water record, another solo effort by a bassist from an established band. Name recognition and industry clout allow greater freedom to explore artistically, and releasing a first solo album frees one from preconceived expectations. While there are hints of the main group’s sound, the personal tastes and stylings of the individual show through; the songs are more introspective, more nuanced. The experience of a long musical career, both as a performing and recording artist, show through; the arrangements are tight and the production is glorious.
On the first listen through, “The Place You Wanna Go” and “Prepared Remarks” are the two tracks that jump out and grab your ear the hardest. The former has hints of Jeff Lynne in the vocal lines and a cut time chug made for involuntarily swaying along to. The latter feels a little more Foo Fighters-y, but with a decidedly melancholy new-wave meets Tom Petty twist. After repeated listenings, “Belle Epoch,” “Sink Sand,” and “Lift the Sheet” really begin to shine; it takes a little bit for them to really sink in. For a debut solo record from an established artist, Lieutenant’s is a remarkably strong offering. Musically it is airtight and technically it is flawless.