Radioactive Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/18/2004
Isn't it funny, how avid 'disco' bands are progressively shifting towards a more 'guitaresqe' sound? (Take techno gurus like Depeche Mode and New Order, for instance.) Isn't it even funnier how ardent rockers are incorporating elements of 'techno' in their respective expertise of music? Is it irony or is it change; or is it, as 'betterman' Mr. Eddie Vedder (whose band still remains unfazed by the confused proclivity of other artists to change musical directions, to improve, evolve, or just try to sell more records) would like to put it most appropriately, "it's evolution, baby!!"
Some bands evolve, whereas some others make a cataclysmic effort in their directionless quest to evolve. Take Crash Test Dummies, for instance. On one hand, they create an absolute masterpiece like God Shuffled His Feet, and on the other hand they come up with something as devastingly errant and unlistenable as Give Yourself A Hand.
Our protagonists, the boys of Live, have a strange connection with Crash Test Dummies. They share a common producer, ex-Talking Heads guitarist Jerry Harrison, collaboration with whom gave both of them their first breakthroughs: Live's Throwing Copper and Crash Test Dummies' God Shuffled His Feet.
Since then, both Live and Crash Test Dummies have changed record producers and have tried to experiment with an 'electronic' sound: Live with V, and Crash Test Dummies with Give Yourself A Hand. After having committing a crime of sitting through the most painful forty-odd minutes of Give Yourself A Hand, I realize how talented Live is, and how easily the band has made itself comfortable to its new electronic sound.
Like the Crash Test Dummies, Live has experimented with its sound by adding considerable chunks of techno / electronic influences to it. However, it has done it with pomp and adroitness. Changing style is one thing; but doing it with aplomb and grace is another. Live's latest collaboration with Railo & Alain Johannes has worked perfectly well.
V kicks off with "Intro," which actually is a cheeky build-up to the in-your-face "Simple Creed," both featuring the 'transcendentally wicked' vocals of Tricky. Immediately following it is the hard-hitting Linkin Park-ish "Deep Enough," which reaffirms Live's ground as one of the few sustaining messiahs of grunge.
The new sound is hard and aggressive. Also, Ed Kowalczyk's perpetual obsession with spiritualism has to a great deal relaxed, and he has found himself writing about worldly matters, rather than about the blissful heaven and the abysmal hell. An example of the latter is the typically grunge "People Like You," which has Kowalczyk screaming his lungs out, presumably about rock n' roll being an outlet for bottled and helpless rage and about how warriors like Live help channel it out. Again, on the mellower side, with "Call Me A Fool" love is restricted to its most uncomplicated forms as Kowalczyk croons "the fools of love are misunderstood / the mystery is with me now / so call me a fool." This strongly reminds me of "The Disappointed" by XTC, both songs always causing me to jerk a tear or two with their tender melancholy.
On the flipside however, even Kowalczyk's attempts to go religious fail due to lyrical slackness. Take "The Ride," on which Ed sings, "In the east, people meditate and recreate the sound of OM.... In the west, we think we are the best, we've shown the whole wide world that money is what we care for...." The profoundness of the thought, if it is so, is battered by a very juvenile manner of expression.
Live's new sound suits the band well, and the production on V is fresh and slick. However, songs like "Flow," "Ok?" and "Hero Of Love" could've been better off with much less texture. Having said this, "Forever May Not Be Long Enough," "Transmit Your Love," and "The Ride" have been flavored perfectly to sound just right; these are definite album favorites, in addition to the catchy singles with polarized moods, "Simple Creed" and "Overcome."
Live has always had this roller-coaster ride with its fans with every new album that they release. After the much-adored Throwing Copper, the fans found the bleakness of Secret Samadhi too difficult to accept. Again, after the fan-pleasing The Distance To Here, V has been viewed as another disaster. What the fans fail to realize is that though the band has continuously changed style, unlike other bands, at least this one hasn't crumbled against the vehemence of the change. The band knows exactly what it is doing on this album, and knows how to play around with the new change that it has deliberately sought. V is not a disaster, but is rather a sign of a great band in transition.