In many ways, the record is the self-portrait of singer and guitarist Max Stern, painted during a transitional, tumultuous time in his life. From this turmoil, though, Stern created moving and dynamic art. “In the Pauses” captures the pain of an on- and off-again relationship when it never quite coalesces. Steve Gibson’s drums plod during its intro as guitars gnash angrily around them, but the song ends with one of the record’s most beautiful moments—starting with a distant, resonating guitar on which spectral notes collapse in an almost-orchestral swoon, and rising into a display of explosive chords, strummed by Stern and guitarist Jeff Russell.
With thematic metaphors that repeat throughout the record—particularly the images of light leading one out of darkness and the dramatic transition from coastline to ocean—Light on the Lake is as literary as any canonical novel, as meaningful as any modern painting, and as punk-rock as it comes.