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One of the most time-honored words that rock music has given the English language is the adjective “Beatlesque” – a word that surprisingly still triggers spell-check. One would think that the word would be in official dictionaries now. It’s a very useful term that contains its own definition right there in it. It denotes something – generally a song, but sometimes just a sound or general artistic aesthetic – that resembles The Beatles.
“Love Or Death,” by Lawrence, Kansas’ Hospital Ships, is sneakily Beatlesque. It doesn’t include any of the Technicolor ’60s-style psychedelia that the word normally conjures, likely because a one-man band can only do so much. Listen to the melody of “Love Or Death,” though, and the first bell it’s likely to ring is that of late-period Fab Four songs by John Lennon along the lines of “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds,” “Across the Universe,” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” It shares the same stately pace and Lennon’s touch for crafting a serpentine melody that manages to twist and turn around on itself during any given verse, a trick that hides its complexity in plain sight by making it so damn catchy.
The second bell it rings is The Flaming Lips, perhaps the most Beatlesque band to rarely ever be referred to as Beatlesque. Sole Hospital Ships member Jordan Geiger (formerly of Shearwater, The Appleseed Cast, and The Minus Story) shares Wayne Coyne’s Dust Bowl-states yelp and the Lips’ affection for layering pure-pop melodies with oddball sonic textures. The way Geiger piles competing layers of feedback and distortion atop his melody without ever coming close to concealing it is a move the Lips mastered at least as far back as Hit to Death in the Future Head, and it’s one that most of their imitators have a hard time replicating, but Geiger manages it with ease on “Love Or Death.”
Like the best Beatlesque bands, Hospital Ships are able to mine inspiration without stooping to imitation. Listening to “Love Or Death,” it’s easy to imagine either The Beatles or The Flaming Lips recording the song, but it’s impossible to say which of either of those bands’ albums it could’ve appeared on. Geiger may resemble Lennon or Coyne, but he has his own vision of where to take that resemblance.