The year is 1994. The moment the world heard "I Alone", there was almost an audible moment of silence. Wow. Where did that come from? Who is that?
There are bands that create sounds never collectively heard before: Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Limp Bizkit, Moby and most sincerely, Live.
A band that reinvents itself with each new release, and with only lead singer Ed Kowalczyk's voice familiar enough to identify them, Live's fifth album, V, is no exception.
With a fresh sound that integrates the musical influences of India, pop-cultural references ("Is that a Swatch watch?"), and a unique electronic infusion that is only heightened by Tricky's contribution on "Simple Creed", this is by far the most electrifying Live CD to date.
Live is a band that has always managed to weave an intricate tapestry musically and Kowalczyk's lyrical genius has only contributed to their allure. Since their 1992 debut CD, Mental Jewelry (which was based on the writings of Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti), the philosophies of the band remain the same: be true to yourself, and the truth shall set you free. The Indian influences remain, but with V, there is a distinct assurance and confidence that comes out of your sound system, through your earphones and knocks you on the floor, leaving only cartoon stars swirling around your head and you scrambling for your earphones, wanting, needing to hear it again and again.
Live has always succeeded in doing what most bands only wish for: selling lots of records, touring and loving every minute of it, garnering fans young and old who follow them from CD to CD and writing music that is intricate, thought-provoking and overwhelming in its honesty. This continues with V.
Originally called Ecstatic Fanatic, this release is rich with sounds that will delight the ear and mind. "Simple Creed" is both a Tragically Hip-type of rock song with the hip-hop tendencies that will have you up out from your behind your desk almost immediately. Tricky's contribution gives it a fierceness that is tangible throughout the entire CD. "Deep Enough"'s sexy lyrics allow Kowalczyk's rap-type stylings to run rampant with:
"We hit a couch, the place was packed / With sweaty palms, sweaty thongs, and sweaty backs / My mouth was dry, my brain cold high, / The groove was right, so I decided to ignite / Your eyes met mine, your skirt began to rise, / And so did I".
"People Like You" sways back and forth like an elm in November, from a quiet rant to an unleashing that only Kowalczyk is capable of:
"Where (are) the boys in Live? / They're pissin' in the mainstream / Open up your cage / Focus all your rage / The world needs people like you".
"Overcome", laden with strings, piano, and Kowalczyk singing with every fibre of his being, is the album's "I Alone". It will leave you tingling and yes, completely overcome. You won't be disappointed.
Of course, evident throughout are smart lyrics and a sense that the audience is participating in a conversation. Much like Dennis Miller is able to singe a celebrity with his whippet-like medley of pop-culture references faster than Britney Spears's new, improved breasts emerged on our television screens, Kowalczyk tangles us in his web of words and if most had the chance, they would never leave.
The eeriness of songs past like "I Alone", "All Over You" and "Lightning Crashes" remain, but it is not an eeriness filled with despair. The songs burst forth with a new rage at the world before us, but it is the rage of someone wanting to change the system, to truly make a difference. And no band is more poised for that than Live. No album is more revolutionary than this one.
Proving again that Live is not just about gold records and product endorsements like some people (you know who you are), this CD is dedicated to Live fan Jared Van Horn, who, upon returning from seeing the band at the Midtown Music Festival in Atlanta, Georgia, was killed by a semitrailer truck while pulled over changing a blown tire. He was 20 years old.
This is a real band with real things to say. As 2001 comes to a close, with all that this year has endured, there is no band more suitable for these times. They will continue to evolve and challenge us, mentally stimulate us. How many bands can you say that about?