I like parts of Departure, but my affinity for the Vermont duo’s debut comes solely from a handful of songs that remind me of Spacemen 3. Departure never reaches the same level of Spacemen 3 sound-alike as the band’s pre-album single “High and Low”, but it hits a lot of the same notes as the Rugby psych-rock legends. The throbbing garage-rock of Spacemen 3’s debut album is represented on album-opener “Mad Mary Jones”, and the luminous psychedelia of the final Spacemen 3 album (Recurring) weighs heavy over “Paint This City” – Departure’s best song. Not enough of a Spacemen 3 connection for ya? Well, the band’s logo is a modified version of the hypno-spirals from the cover of The Perfect Prescription, and the album was mixed and mastered by Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember.
Those Spacemen 3 connections make for some good moments, but The Vacant Lots have no appealing qualities of their own. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most of the songwriting premises are paper-thin and get driven into the ground with mind-numbing repetition. They’re also amateur musicians, who sidestep anything challenging, like tempo shifts or melodic exposition. The album is poorly produced, the singing is weak, and the less said about their forays into spoken word pretension, the better – especially “Make The Connection” which aimlessly drones on for ten chord-changeless minutes.