PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Living Things: Ahead of the Lions

Zeth Lundy

Fraternal hard rock trio from St. Louis finally sees its ferocious, politically charged full-length debut released, one year after being lost amongst major label mergers.


Living Things

Ahead of the Lions

Label: Jive
US Release Date: 2005-10-04
UK Release Date: 2005-10-10
iTunes affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Attention! All ye freers of Fiona, Yankee Hotel Foxtrotters, record industry skeptics! The St. Louis-based band Living Things, a trio of brothers with the Clash's politics and the Ramones' riffs, were a recent low-profile casualty of just another corporate merger. Their ferocious Steve Albini-produced debut, Black Skies in Broad Daylight, was set to be released in August 2004 by Dreamworks, before the label was unceremoniously "acquired" by Interscope. (I reviewed the album's original incarnation here.) Living Things found themselves label-less, and their record elicited little interest in the industry. (It's possible that many labels found the band's candid politics to be a liability; despite having toured with Velvet Revolver, Living Things' onstage politics got them banned from L.A.'s Viper Room club.)

Now, over one year later, Black Skies is seeing an official release with some revisions in tow. It's been re-titled Ahead of the Lions, had its tracklisting slightly altered (three songs cut and three added), and Jive Records, unbelievably, is releasing it. The record's rebirth is an all-around improvement. The new pseudo-psychedelic cover art is an aesthetic enhancement, even if it does sacrifice political implications for artful ones. "Dead Deer" and "Standard Oil Trust", two tracks that slowed Black Skies' final third, have wisely been removed. The new tracks help make Ahead of the Lions a tauter, more immediate record: "Monsters of Man" is a nervy, fuzz-faced rocker with a stubborn Stooges bang and sax honk; and "God Made Hate" lumbers around with big-fisted chords and militaristic momentum, instructing to "ignore them orders". The album's first single, "Bom Bom Bom", is a new highlight, its title (and chorus refrain) distorting protest into a pop figment over a heavy Gary Glitter bounce. Lead vocalist Lillian Berlin lends new meaning to the phrase "we're gonna rock this town", his band colliding with a national hypocrisy.

Some may second-guess Living Things' political soapboxing, especially when manifested in the form of a rock band. Admittedly, the band's slick sound and rock star posturing may detract from its message (Albini's recording is almost uncharacteristically immaculate), but at least they're taking a stand for something. A band this young has plenty of time before it has to resort to leather pants, heroin chic, and laughable lyrics to eke out a decent living.

All other aspects of the original album remain unchanged: Ahead of the Lions is a punishing, accessible hard rock record, a marriage of the rock 'n' roll fetish of the MC5's Back in the U.S.A. with Nirvana's wicked decibel annihilation. The anti-war, anti-authority "Bombs Below" opens the record with a riff that sounds like the Cars after being exposed to Hulk-sized levels of radiation, and the concentration of intensity rarely lets up until 11 tightly wound songs later. It's like a Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stone Age record, except it's thankfully bereft of clich├ęd relationship songs and sounds like it would physically assault you on the street. Isn't that what you want your rock 'n' roll to do?

The record's proliferation of religious imagery ("No New Jesus", "God Made Hate", "you're your own messiah"), often entwined with political righteousness, reflects the U.S. administration's current outlook, mistaking personal faith as the bedrock of public office. If you pine for rabid, passionate hard rock with a pristine professionalism, Living Things are for you. "Wake up!" Berlin howls in "No New Jesus". "Uncuff your hands!" This is a call, not to past resignations, but to future indiscretions. Living Things are intervening. This is what bands sound like before they stop caring.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.