This review of the new Lit album could start off like the trailer for virtually every summer blockbuster ever released.
The voiceover begins, "IN A WORLD... where pop-punk bands were a dime a dozen�they stood out from the pack." Then we see a shot of the band in all their tattooed glory, over which we hear, "They were barely a blip on the mainstream's radar until the Goo Goo Dolls hit it big with Dizzy Up the Girl." We cut to a shot of a bunch of major label fat cats examining a copy of the Goo's album like it's some ancient artifact, then nodding knowingly at each other and giving each other the thumbs-up sign, patting each other on the back. "After that," continues the voiceover, "the major label suits were looking to sign anyone and everyone with an even vaguely similar sound."
Over clips of the band in action, we hear, "RCA signed them, and they burst onto the major label scene with crunchy hooks and a video starring Pamela Anderson. The world was their oyster. But then, it all went horribly wrong." The last clip is of the band posing for a promo photo; a flashbulb goes off, the screen goes white for a moment, and you see a hand holding the just-taken photo�which is promptly crumpled up and thrown into a wastepaper basket.
Okay, that's enough trailer talk; my throat's getting hoarse from doing the announcer voice. But it sets the stage a little bit, at least.
What happened, in case you're wondering, is that Atomic, the band's sophomore effort on RCA, just didn't shift the massive units. Their sound was going out of commercial vogue, and, if memory serves, RCA didn't put nearly as much of a promotional push on Atomic as they had with the previous album, A Place in the Sun, which may be why the first single, "Lipstick and Bruises", didn't take off.
In other words, before long the members of Lit found themselves re-investigating the world of independent labels.
Surprisingly, however, the departure was of the band's own volition, according to comments that bassist Kevin Baldes recently made to web site RockNWorld.com. "When we signed with RCA, there was this complete family-like atmosphere and everyone was behind us and promoting our CDs," he told the site. "As new people came in and took over, we just felt the love wasn't there anymore in terms of the label seeing the same vision as us. So many of the bands were being dropped (by the label) that it just didn't feel right."
Thankfully, DRT / Nitrus Records shared the band's enthusiasm, which has led to the band's self-titled return to record store racks in 2004.
"Too Fast for a U-Turn", the song that leads off the new album, would have you believe that the band has gone for a darker, greasier sound that doesn't seem terribly interested in catchy hooks; it's straight-ahead hard rock, and it may well scare off a few people. It's an exception rather than the rule, thankfully; the follow-up, "Looks Like They Were Right", is a bouncy number right along the lines of the group's previous work, and the album settles into a nice groove from there. Songs like "Hard to Find", "Throwaway", and "Forever Begins Right Now" are perfect nuggets of power pop. Lord knows there's nothing wrong with that.
Lit have never been ashamed to admit that their music is a combination of the stuff they listened to during their formative years: heavy metal and pop music. That being the case, they will no doubt appreciate the compliment when they read that there are many similarities to more recent Def Leppard albums, particularly on the songs "Times Like This" and "Moonshine". Additionally, the closer "Bulletproof" ends with the band singing, "We're all alright", leaving little question that they sleep with the first three Cheap Trick albums under their pillow.
While it's unquestionable that Lit has pulled off a successful cover of the Cure's "Pictures of You", there's something about its arrival so soon after 311's version of "Love Song" that smacks of a blatant attempt to score a hit. Still, it's such a solid rendition, blending the melancholy feel of the original with the band's own sound, that it deserves to be a hit; it's a shame it couldn't have made the cut for the 50 First Dates soundtrack, which propelled 311's cover to its lofty chart heights.
Lit might not have the indie cool factor of groups like Yellowcard, New Found Glory, or Saves the Day, but their music has easily as many hooks and just as much enthusiasm propelling it. Here's hoping the kids give it a chance.