The Loneliness of Lomita
Some years ago I argued in print that Lomita’s Stress Echo debut was “one of the best albums I’ve ever heard.” Actually this isn’t so much an argument as it is a claim; it’s not as if anyone could reasonably dispute what I’d heard. The argument was that “Austin’s cultural elite are or ought to be in full search mode for our next It Band” and that Lomita (by virtue of their apocalyptic tint on an emerging psychedelic country aesthetic in the genetic line of the 13th Floor Elevators and Willie Nelson) was Candidate El Numero Uno:
Shine my shoes, Delilah,
I leave you my love
and I leave you my name.
And you can pour my ashes on the apple tree
where we used to pray.
Jesus, come take my ghost
Jesus, come and take my ghost away
This argument had multiple virtues but sincerity was least among them. No, its primary virtue was that I might be right.
I say that because in 2006 there was no faster expressway to Austin street cred than climbing aboard an empty bandwagon. I had complete confidence and spent years telling people about Lomita, long past 2007’s uneven and disappointing Downtown Mystic and their subsequent breakup. I was confident because I was sincere. These were the same thing.
I don’t know if a prediction like mine, had it been successful, still occupies pride of place among contemporary indie youth. I’m using “indie” in the broadest possible sense here. On the one hand it seems as though, in the timeworn way of culture, affectation has hardened to reflex, but on the other that little two-step is inherently unstable, to be validated by the thing you despise like that. I’ll never know, though, because the astringent pleasures of middle-aged indie culture makes its youth version a comparative delight. I had planned some kind of cheap metaphor to describe this phenomenon (like something lush but cheap to the late-stage desert) but the whole situation is so constructed that no natural-seeming metaphor could be appropriate. No, the appropriate comparison is of contemporary, middle-aged indie culture to a luxury apartment building in the early stages of a Walking Dead-type outbreak:
We all know what you did
Break your mama’s back
Tell it like it is
I don’t know
What she means
But I want it
The video for that song has only 560 views and is one of only three Lomita videos I can find easily on the internet. The weird thing is that I still think Stress Echo is one of the best albums I’ve heard, that (iTunes keeps close track of these things) I’ve listened to those songs 26 and 12 times respectively in the last four years (at 37 track two, “History of Leaving”–“I was caught up in the wreckage of love before I found you / With a history of leaving what’s the worst she could do?”–is the 11th most listened to song in my library), and that I’m now as certain as it is possible to be that Lomita will never be big even in some minimal way. They were never that big even in Austin. And I’m never going to meet another Lomita fan, which is a little scary to me and I suppose the main reason I find myself on the defensive today.
But really the even weirder thing to me is there’s nothing literally stopping the thing I am certain won’t happen, and in comparison to the recent and distant past in fact many facilitators to a rediscovery. This isn’t Sixto Rodriguez, the Sugar Man lost to the world. We don’t have to move mountains. Anyone reading could go to Amazon and download the album or the songs I’ve quoted today for a few bucks and a few minutes. And then maybe it gets on a blog, or the Twitter. Or the Facebooks. And “goes viral.” And go ahead and try not to use quotation marks around that term.
So Lomita could be Emily Dickinson, but I am surprisingly unconcerned with this possibility.
I got your message taped on my backdoor
You took my breath and laid me out on the floor
It just takes some ink on a page
To even out the score