Athens, Georgia, jamband Perpetual Groove are back with their first new album in three years, and the band has been busy. Like almost all jambands, Perpetual Groove’s bread and butter is their live show improvisations. But the band has managed to capture some of that energy in the studio on Livelovedie as they evolve their “trance arena rock” sound in a harder rocking direction.
The band claims the new album has “a stronger focus on lyrics and song structure and a much heavier overall sound,” and it’s true. The songs on Livelovedie do lean toward a tighter structure and there are definitely some heavier guitar parts. But the band still delivers the unexpected changes and extended melodic stylings that are their trademark.
“Save for One” kicks off the album with an anthemic rocker that has lots of space and texture, giving each member of the quartet a chance to stand out. Guitarist/vocalist Brock Butler’s vocals soar over the ringing chords. “Two Shores” slows down a bit, featuring some quirky textures before the band ramps back up into a hard-charging jam.
The instrumental “Mayday” crashes back and forth with heavy power chords before giving way to the melodic and floaty “It Starts Where It Ends”, which features some introspective and philosophical lyrics—“The start of this story is not where the tale begins / This point in life is not a segue / But in fact this is the act where the plot thickens”. Later in the song, Butler sings, “You live, you love, you die / Each time you slide away / Still you try and try but you know / Some things in life will never go your way”. The song also features a blazing major key guitar solo, another band trademark.
“Crapshoot” features an almost heavy metal groove, but again with major key melodies on top, a sound rarely heard in hard rock. It would seem Perpetual Groove have made up their mind that they can rock harder but still jam out in hippie rock mode, and who’s to say they can’t? Butler can clearly hold his own with the jam rock world’s top guitar heroes.
“So Much as Goodbye” features a brief but stellar jam led by keyboardist Matt McDonald, who throws down a thick psychedelic organ sound over a fat groove from bassist Adam Perry and drummer Albert Suttle. The song then shifts into a gentler rock mode with McDonald shifting over to lay down a beauty of a piano part, while Butler adds melodic fills.
“Speed Queen” is a bluesy guitar-driven hard rocker that lightens only slightly when it shifts into an extended jam vehicle for Butler, then returns to hard rock that recalls Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”. But just when you think it’s over, the band goes back for one more pass at another super melodic jam.
The band returns to their forte to close out the album with “Only Always”, featuring tight changes, melodic guitar lines, and another compassionate vocal from Butler—“I feel that you’ll find its fine if you are leaving / No matter how far you feel out of phase / The answer to your question ‘Will I love you?’ quite simply is only always”.
Perpetual Groove are rocking harder than ever, but still jamming out in their trademark melodic way. With Phish still retired and the String Cheese Incident about to break up, Livelovedie shows Perpetual Groove to be well-positioned to move up a notch in the ongoing battle royale for national jamband supremacy.