you are a victim of this age

 

Live

 

Modern rock band from York, Pennsylvania, mostly notable for Ed Kowalzlllclclylclzllc*smack*cyzk's silly pretentious lyrics and emotive voice. Surprisingly they've been around for over a decade, and are still going, without any lineup changes. But why is half the band named "Chad"?

lineup: Patrick Dahlheimer (bass), Chad Gracey (drums), Ed Kowalczyk (vocals, guitar), Chad Taylor (guitar).

review index: Mental Jewelry / Throwing Copper / Secret Samadhi / The Distance to Here / V

missing albums: none, for once

apex: Throwing Copper
nadir: Mental Jewelry
overlooked: uh.


Mental Jewelry - 1991

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: Pain Lies on the Riverside, Operation Spirit (The Tyranny of Tradition)
Worst songs: The Beauty of Gray, Mirror Song, most of the second half

 

Okay, first note the craptastic production of this album. Apparently after quitting Talking Heads, Jerry Harrison decided to cut his ears off and replace them with a pair of moldy tangerines. I mean, really -- the guitars are so clean you could eat off them! That is, if you weren't afraid of being electrocuted when you put the gravy on the mashed potatoes and... Um...

Anyway, this one at least starts off with a bang: "Pain Lies on the Riverside" is an absurdly catchy pseudo-funked-up song. Then there's "Operation Spirit"...uh...why is the bass player playing the same slap riff again? See, here's where we encounter problem two: thanks to crappy production and lack of imagination on the part of the band (well, we can forgive them, it was their first try) most of this stuff sounds the same. Either case, "Operation Spirit" is still pretty catchy, and it features the verse:

heard a lot of talk about this Jesus
a man of love, a man of strength
but what a man was two thousand years ago
means nothing at all to me today

Ooh, burn! Take that, Judeo-Christian spiritual beliefs. After that song we hit a snag, cause "The Beauty of Gray" is way too preachy for my tastes, and it doesn't even do much musically. "Brothers Unaware" has a nice little guitar riff, but again we go with the lyrics:

date of birth, geography
the color of my skin, ideology
you got ten fingers, two legs, one nose
like me
just like me
and it's as simple as that
you see

Um, sorry to disappoint you, Ed, but racial prejudice is not that simple. It's not just because someone looks different, there are overarching socioeconomic factors inherent in the roots of racism.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, actually... I just wanted to use the word "socioeconomic" in a review. You can tell I'm not that enthused with an album when I start picking apart the lyrics. God, am I only up to "Tired of 'Me'"? Hey, Ed, know what I'm tired of? THIS ALBUM! Last song on side one (this is a tape, see) sucks, so let's move on to the second half.

"Waterboy" -- ah, it's the theme song to the delightful Adam Sandler comedy of the same name. NOT! Actually, it's an uptempo song, and is more enjoyable than the film. Well, so's a root canal, so never mind. Next song is some more universalist bullshit, and I really wish that bass player's thumb would fall off. You know what? This album is really going downhill. It started off okay, but it just decided to give up about halfway through. They quit writing decent guitar riffs, and Ed quit singing interesting melodies, and Jerry Harrison must have been in the bathroom snorting crystal meth off the toilet seat. Just like Britney Spears. Y'know, with that last sentence, I just opened this page up to some very weird search engine terms. What? Live, what about live? Surely not Live at Leeds, I reviewed that already! Jesus, you people are so demanding. I don't want to talk to you anymore. Not until you apologize.


Throwing Copper - 1994

Rating: ****
Best songs: Selling the Drama, The Dam at Otter Creek, Pillar of Davidson...and that song about lightning, whatever it was called
Worst songs: Shit Towne, Waitress, Iris

 

Hurrah. After thinking things over for a couple years, Live realized that to be a successful band you have to do songs that don't suck. Also, they managed to get Jerry Harrison off the liquid drug juice long enough for him to make sure the album didn't sound like they used masking tape instead of magnetic tape to record it. So the end result was that the album sold several million copies, and a third of it was plastered all over the radiograph like a poster telling kids that it's only okay to smoke if you're 18 or older.

Well, let's look at the hits. Yep, they're hits all right. Catchy chorusy-guitar-driven numbers with loud choruses. Except in the case of "Lightning Crashes", which is more like...I dunno, "In the Air Tonight" or something. Fun fact: "Lightning Crashes" is the only top 40 song ever to use the word 'placenta' in the lyrics. Isn't it amazing?

But screw the hits, we've heard them before. There are other songs on here; indeed there are! The album opens with an ultra-creepy song called "The Dam at Otter Creek", and "T.B.D." has a pretty neat bassline. Hey, bass player, good job on learning how to play the bass without going THWACKITATHWACKITATHWACKITA all the time. Oh, and there's also "Pillar of Davidson", one of my personal favorites -- it's so...pseudo-epic. And it features another nice bassline. Of course, here we also encounter a slight problem with the album, that being a few really lousy songs. "Shit Towne"... Do I even have to go into that? I mean, the title should tell you enough. "Waitress" and "Iris" are dull rock tunes, the former featuring more of Ed's stupid lyrics, and I'm not sure whether I can recommend "Stage".

As a protest of the US government's reckless warmongering, I'm not going to write an ending to this review. This is entirely because I've been so inspired by Ed Kowalcyzk's life-affirming lyrics on Mental Jewelry, and not because I just couldn't think of anything to put down for a conclusion.


Secret Samadhi - 1997

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Rattlesnake, Lakini's Juice, Ghost, Graze
Worst songs: Century, Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe, Unsheathed

 

Success has not stunned the boys stupid (yet), thank goodness. Though the lyrics are once again taking a turn for the worse (I'll get to that later), for the most part the compositions are still fighting for the forces of good. There were again several hit singles (and one or two not-so-hit singles): the opening one-two thrust of the pop-grunge-rocker "Rattlesnake" and grindy bass-crunching of "Lakini's Juice" is just as good as anything else that Live has done. And then of course you get a power ballad in the guise of uh... a non-power ballad, I guess. It's popularly known as "Turn My Head", though Ed's original version included "(And Cough)" at the end. Damn you, corporate record company censor scumheads! Oh, you might also recognize "Freaks", a goofy little thing that, in the tradition of Steely Dan's "Show Biz Kids", is a single with the word "fuck" in it. There's also a reference to Geraldo, which is like, so 1989.

Anyway, since everyone knows that the singles are the best songs on the album (pretty much, anyway), let's discuss the other 67%. "Graze" and "Ghost" are a pair of songs that begin with the letter 'g', and expertly milk the 90s quiet/loud dynamic for all it's worth. The worst songs are probably the ones with the worst lyrics: take "Century", for example. It includes both the couplet 'everybody's here / puke stinks like beer' and the evocative phrase 'I can smell your armpits'. In the same verse. Then there's "Unsheathed". While I like anything that slams 60s youth culture, Ed... Just get over it. Gen X needs to be ridiculed now. But why do people feel the need to classify people according to when they were born? I mean, how many people from Gen X actually act like asshole Gen X-ers depicted in popular culture? I know I don't feel any affinity towards whatever stupid label they've given people born in the 80s. "Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe". Is titled. "Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe". I don't think that needs any further explanation.

I tire of these paragraphs. There are some other songs which I don't feel like going into, so I'll just say that it's not as good as Tossing Cu. But it's still a hell of a lot better than that other one.


The Distance to Here - 1999

Rating: **
Best songs: The Dolphin's Cry
Worst songs: bwuh...some...stuff...

 

Eugh, what horrible cover art. The only upside to that eyesore of a collage (with a goldfish?) on the front is that there's no way the music could be as bad.

Though I can't say I'm thrilled to have paid $2.99 for this album. I'll give it one thing, it starts out nicely: the leadoff single "The Dolphin's Cry" is a catchy, melodic song that overcomes its rather silly title. Then comes "The Distance", which is mostly notable for featuring a completely random harpsichord solo. Okay, it's a decent track. I'm just trying to figure out what to say, since I've only listened to this the whole way through like, twice. As you can tell, I am so qualified to review it. Either way, let's move on. Hey, "Run to the Water", that's an okay one. I'm not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed that "Voodoo Lady" has nothing to do with the Ween song of the same name. And "Face and Ghost", for no real reason, uses the Techno Vocoder of Doom for a few seconds.

I'm not gonna mince words. Anymore, at least. This isn't the best Live album. It's boring, but it does have one thing going for it: the lyrics aren't painful. At their worst they're just ignorable. Thank goodness for that. The biggest problem is it's too long, like, 56 minutes! I don't want to listen to Live for 56 minutes! Ed, make your albums shorter and I'll like them more, okay?


V - 2001

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Overcome, Forever May Not Be Long Enough
Worst songs: Ok?, The Ride

 

Hey, what gives? No pretentious title, cheap cover art? This is the same band, right?

(Un)fortunately, yes. Ed's lyrics are worse than before, and the production is once again crappy (this time veering towards the dynamic-drained ultra-compressed sound of modern rock), but on the upside, the songs aren't as generic and dull as The Distance to Here. Yes, it's spring, and catchy choruses are in once again!

But let us take a moment to mourn the passing of Ed Kowalczyk's sanity. Apparently he fancies himself 'down' with the 'black folks', so he penned a rap to stick into "Like a Soldier", an otherwise decent track. Let's have a look at it, exactly as it appears in the liner notes:

let's go to ray's, not to pizza hut
let's go to the pig, not to starbux
let's vote for Nader, what are we waitin for?
I'm gonna live to be a hundred and sixty four
to the crib then back to the studio
to write a song so good
make a midget grow
from the north pole, down to mexico
if you don't know the words, fuck it!
let's go!

Okay, where do we even begin? Ed's pathetic attempt at social commentary? The fact that he hasn't written a really good song since 1997? That going from the north pole to Mexico doesn't even cover the entire northern hemisphere? What the hell does that part even mean? I mean for God's sake, Ed, throw us a bone!

He also wrote another terrible bit of commentary called "The Ride", which features the pithy line "in the west / we think we're the best / we've shown the whole wolrd / that money is all we care for now". Hey, Ed, you're the one that's sold millions of albums, not me. So don't go pointing your finger.

But enough bitching about lame lyrics! As I said before, the actual music isn't too bad, and sometimes is even quite good: "Forever May Not Be Long Enough" is especially notable because it was co-written by Glen Ballard and doesn't sound like adult contemporary mush! Also, "Overcome" is a gorgeous piano ballad, and "Transmit Your Love" overcomes the typically silly lyrics with some nice synth bits and stuff. However, I refuse to say anything nice about the awful funked-up "Ok?"! I reFUSE!

Okay, that's enough of this crappy band. Thank you for your time, Ed, just go free Tibet or something, I'll get my music elsewhere.


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