The teaming of Los Angeles bands Lions & Ghosts and Legal Reins might just represent the state of the art of so-called alternative guitar-based rock.
That's not necessarily good. Both bands alluded to emotions, but without conviction, and often rocked convincingly, but without distinction.
A prime illustration of what's wrong came midway through headlining L&G;'s set Thursday at the Whisky when singer Rick Parker announced that the band was going to do a song by another L.A. band. Predictably, it was a Doors song, "Crystal Ship," but offered without any fresh perspective. When X did the Doors' "Soul Kitchen," it served as a statement of the band's intent to reshape or redefine what it means to be a band from Los Angeles. L&G; shows no such desire.
For the most part, L&G--which; used to be known for rounded Anglo-rock textures--now makes pseudo-sloppy post-garage rock that mostly calls to mind the Replacements. But the Replacements' sloppiness has a purpose in supporting the man-child conflicts of the songs. L&G;'s songs don't convey any of those conflicts and doubts, so the textures came off Thursday as merely for show.
Likewise, Legal Reins showed no lack of melodic sense or propulsive and solid playing, but not much more. More often than not echoing the Bunnymen, the quartet worked up textures that hinted at some sort of dark anguish--also implied in the neo-boho mannerisms of singer Danny Benatar (yes, the little bro of what's-her-name)--but not to any great effect.