They look like The Ramones, they sound like the disaffected offspring of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Stooges and they have a social conscience that makes Patti Smith look apathetic. They also have a penchant for burning photographs of Mssrs. Blair and Bush on stage – and then pi**ing on them to put out the flames.
Intrigued? Damn right you are! Living Things are one of the most interesting and exciting new rock bands around. Can their debut album – the ominously titled Black Skies In Broad Daylight – do justice to their growing reputation?
The album opener builds atmosphere like a gathering storm, finally launching into the vocals of Bombs Below, an unabashed dig at current US foreign policy. “Where do all the dead boys go? No solution but bombs below,” runs the stark, striking chorus. The lead singer, Lillian (they’re all blokes by the way – is it any surprise that these guys are self-confessed misfits?) has the growling voice to complement all the sleazy riffs, and despite the fact that this is only a three-man band, their sound is as rich and complete as you could imagine, yet retaining a wonderfully raw edge.
This lyrical intensity is kept up all throughout the album. Politics, the oil industry, religion and police are torn apart by vitriolic lyrics amid a roaring clatter of guitar, drums and bass. The highlight of the album comes with the awesome I Owe – I defy anyone to resist the temptation to tap feet, nod along and otherwise convulse during this three minutes of bouncy guitars, Iggy Pop style vocals and a barrage of anti-institutional messages. Expect forthcoming chart success.
Amongst the power chords and catharsis, there are lighter moments. End of Days evolves into a winding pop anthem while Keep It Till You Fold and Dead Deer show the Berlin brothers’ more sensitive side (they list Sylvia Plath as an influence!). It’s all nice enough, but frankly they should stick to what they do best – rocking out, as on Body Worship. Steamy, raucous, plenty of distortion… Ah… That’s more like it.
Steve Albini‘s production wizardry is evident with the album being roughly hewn and authentic, but completely accessible. The closing track reeks of his influence, fading away into a silence that leaves the listener stranded, cut off, and utterly immersed in the iridescent lyrical content of the album.
Living Things are reported to have said that they expect this album to bring about “the fall of organised authority” – they certainly aim high! The lyrics are insubordinate, nihilistic even, and for the most part the band thrash and crash to make a sound that is best listened to at an ear-shattering, anti-socially high volume.
It is let down though by the mid-tempo stuff – so mid-capacity, so half fat cream, it could be so much more. Furthermore there is a drastically awful (I’m talking Sum41 awful here) backing vocal on Born Under The Gun that is an aberration on an otherwise decent album.
So, will this album achieve the fall of organised authority? Unlikely. But was it thought provoking? Yes. Did it rock? Well, mostly yes. Does it live up to the band’s reputation? Sure. Worth a listen? Definitely.