Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Living Things garnered a lot of attention for two reasons; the fact that their record was delayed due to record label politics and well, the band’s own politics. Simply put, they won’t be throwing any parties for President Bush anytime soon.
But those facts and sentiments don’t really matter. What matters is that Ahead of the Lions is a spot on gravelly rock and roll record thick with anti everything and heavy on velvety smooth attitude.
The tracks borrow much from the past while addressing the present. You can’t help but think of the New York Dolls, Blue Oyster Cult, The Cramps, The Rolling Stones and their hometown heroes the MC5. The album is a political diatribe in the form of modern music.
On ‘I Owe’ the government target couldn’t be any clearer and its revolving guitar riff is punctuated with a slurred I Owe. We all got to lay low, They got you under control Lillian Berlin sings.
Ahead of the Lions is littered with young people shipped off and ready to die, political intrusion, social hypocrisy, new revolution and pure angst. Being a new band against the war isn’t anything new recently but what propels Lions ahead is its lack of posturing and torment. The frustration, on many songs, is sung with restraint and melody alone. Its protest is evident in the lyrics but disguised in medium tempo guitar riffs and textured, low sung, vocals.
Coming on first like another flush record above the pop fray but after several turns the thing sounds like an animal seeking prey. You have to marvel at the control, ignoring the notion to just explode and terrorize. Instead, songs slither along with fuzzed out and mechanical guitar parts. On ‘God Made Hate’ the guitar layers on like a bee humming through the world’s largest bullhorn while Berlin saunters through lyrics.
The band doesn’t really explode until ‘No New Jesus’ coupling layered guitar with choking vocals, To play God you must round up your lambs. ‘March in Daylight’ operates on typical structure, subtle verses and culminating to explosive choruses. The album keeps building towards its finish. ‘On All Fours’ is the most virulent, And the right wing ate the world on all fours…Turn in your neighbors on all fours. It’s powerful enough to make Social Distortion proud. Berlin sings in a screaming whisper, a cross between David Johansen and Mike Ness at his most aggressive and Scott Hill (Fu Manchu) when the songs lay a little low. It’s on the last track, ‘I Wish the Best For You,’ that the band mixes up it’s heaviest music with it’s most solemn and guttural vocals, mixing up sexual metaphors and fighting.
Ahead of the Lions is like a fevered dream, at some points a meditative ride and then a fist fight. Protest in a rock and roll record hasn’t sounded so meaningful and cool in a long time.

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