Any band whose song can get stuck in my head after one listen has my respect — especially if that song appears on its debut album. But then, Oakland-based Lenz already had my attention. Local music critics, including Maximum Rock'n'Roll's Mitch Cardwell, have championed the band; frontman Andy Jordan just released a solid solo album under the name Andy Human and was a founding member of local garage-rock outfit The Cuts; and Lenz regularly shares bills with great acts like The Mallard. And then there is Lenz' music, which sounds like an ode to all my teenage goth fantasies: England, the Eighties, and synthesizers.
Ways to End a Day kicks off with one of its catchiest songs, "Moody Michelle," in which an up-tempo guitar hook that borders on T. Rex-style glam rock is haunted by a gloomy, moaning synth melody. There is a New Order-circa-1987 tone throughout the album, but especially on spaced-out, reverb-heavy tracks like "Roman Holiday" and "Feeling," creating a cerebral, end-of-the-world mood. The emotion is heightened by Jordan's baritone voice — which croons softly on ballad "Dead Zone" and grunts in the battle-cry punk chorus of "Leaving (The 21st Century)." The closing title track shows Lenz experimenting with tense, minimal guitar and synth effects in the art-punk spirit of Wire.
There's no filler on this 33-minute album of eight tracks. And while the pop-forward "Moody Michelle" and "Leaving (The 21st Century)" were the first to burn into my memory, it's the grower "Ways to End a Day" that keeps me coming back. (1-2-3-4 Go! Records)