By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
When we last left the members of Ludo ("Jigga What?" October 11, 2006), they had just signed a contract with Island/Def Jam Records. Not much had changed for the bandmates yet after all, they were still in the middle of a whirlwind series of out-of-town gigs.
As of last week, though, things are rapidly starting to come together for the quintet. After taking a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday, Ludo reconvened in LA to meet with their new label (a meeting still sans Jay-Z, sadly) and figure out recording plans for 2007.
Just before Ludo left for LA (where they also performed a gig to celebrate being named one of four winners of the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands contest, out of 11,500 entrants), Moog player Tim Convy played A to Z a series of demo songs that might see the light of day in the future.
Overall, the new songs show more sophistication than people have heard from Ludo in the past and hey, don't laugh. Like many bands that utilize humor in their songs, Ludo risks being discounted as only a novelty act, a "joke" group that isn't to be taken seriously. But that's quite unfair. The new songs A to Z heard demonstrate lyrical maturity and smart arrangements without going in the pretentious or overblown direction other bands (cf. the Killers, My Chemical Romance) have taken. The new tracks are a natural progression for the band and don't sound forced.
For now, everyone else can catch some of these tunes live at the band's annual holiday jamboree, "A Very Ludo Christmas," which takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, December 9, at the Pageant (6161 Delmar Boulevard; 314-726-6161). Here are some songs you just might hear:
"In Space": Despite its demo status, this song is already radio-ready; it has a soaring, huge chorus that's still stuck in A to Z's head days later. Think the spacious, echoing chords of Angels and Airwaves (and the vocal style of that band's Tom DeLonge) combined with the big-rock riffs of a band like Fall Out Boy. A definite highlight.
"Lake Pontchartrain": Savvy fans may have seen this song on Ludo's MySpace page (myspace.com/ludorock) for a nanosecond. It's a story-song in the vein of the band's Broken Bride EP and is buoyed by an insistent ska beat, minor chords and an ominous, speak-singing chorus.
"Go-Getter Greg":A brisk, new-wave-influenced power-pop song about an overbearing-going-on-creepy guy/stalker who doesn't understand why he can't get the girl. Sounds like Fountains of Wayne, if they possessed a sinister instead of wry sense of humor.
"Such As It Ends":Another super-memorable pop-punk ditty. Blooping Moog lines and (again) big choruses collide to create a blink-182/new-wave-influenced toe-tapper.
"Love Me Dead":As bombastic as a Broadway tune, as theatrical as the sinister turns of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."
"Topeka": By far A to Z's favorite track of the bunch. It's slower and guitar-centric, wistful and heart-wrenching, a tune that longs for better days to come. To wit: "Every saint has a past/Every sinner has a future." (Psst, put this song on the album!)
"Drunken Lament":Convy says the band "really likes it," and A to Z can see why: It's a sonic departure that challenges their musical chops. With keyboards in the forefront and an almost '50s/doo-wop feel throughout with quicker interludes scattered here and there it's a big, swooping song.
"The Horror of Our Love": Ludo wanted to reference Wilco or Flaming Lips for this song, which contains elements of the latter: burbling programming, feathery acoustic riffs and delicate choruses. But these are matched with macabre lyrics that run more toward the My Chemical Romance school of darkness, making for an interesting juxtaposition.
"Safe in the Dark":Another super-creepy song with sparse, call-and-response verses and choruses layered with harmonies and a big bridge with clanks and haunted-house noises.
"No Sleep Tonight": A driving tune that resembles the sweet piano-pop of Jack's Mannequin.
"Angel in a Hoodie":A slow, acoustic lament about a guy who pines after a lovely girl with a jerky boyfriend. In short, it's the theme song for anyone who relates to Duckie from Pretty in Pink, the nice guy who wishes the nice girl would see his charms.