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Lifestyle: Frontier

Ben Varkentine



Label: ArchEnemy
US Release Date: 2001-09-25

Close. Very close.

The first couple songs on this EP are a lot like having that girl you had a crush on all through your senior year of high school smile and invite you over to do your bit for water conservation by showering with her. That is to say, they're the fulfillment of some dreams.

I admire Lifestyle for the way they're trying to approximate the new wave sound. Spirited synthesizer sequences (and say that five times fast without spitting) drive "My Favorite Song", which lyrically recalls Laptop's "Greatest Hits". On that record, Laptop (Jesse Hartman) attempts to compliment his current girlfriend by telling her she's a compilation of the best of his former lovers; here, Lifestyle's frontman Sean Drinkwater narrows that down to comparing her to one song. With lines like "You're pretty but contrived," this is not as complimentary as the song's protagonist intends, and Lifestyle seem well aware of it. Drinkwater here grasps the keys to much great lyric-writing, both "new wave" and otherwise: Wit and self-awareness. Just when you're saying to yourself "that's only the first track -- can they sustain it?" the most excellent, exciting pop hook on the LP hits, the instantly engaging "It Doesn't Mean That I Don't Love You If I Forget to Call You Back". You'll be singing this to yourself at work after one hearing, which makes it the best song with a long title since Pet Shop Boys' "I Don't Know What You Want But I Can't Give It Anymore". "I Guess We Could Get Down" sounds like the kind of song which is more fun to dance to at a show than to listen to on a CD, but it's got a swagger to the bass (whether computer generated or not) that grows in appeal on repeated listening. "Are You Coming on to Me?" tells the story of dealing with a pass from your ex-girlfriend's best friend, with a straightforward lyric and functional music track that connects, but lacks character.

If this were 1985 Lifestyle would be trying to get on the Pretty in Pink soundtrack, but they'd only make it to Better Off Dead. Which is not meant as a shot. Better Off Dead rightfully enjoys cult status, and Lifestyle deserves similar devotion. But Savage Steve Holland was not John Hughes, and Lifestyle is not Duran Duran, New Order or Erasure . . . yet. What they have achieved is Pseudo Echo. Again, I by no means wish to dismiss Lifestyle by this -- Pseudo Echo were a more interesting band than they're generally given credit for, and I can still listen to Love an Adventure with pleasure, as I do Frontier. And there's sufficient evidence on the EP, which acts as a teaser for a forthcoming second full-length by the group, to proclaim that Lifestyle have a good shot at making a breakthrough in the next couple of years. They're close. Very close.

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