[Originally published 1994 |
Updated here 1999.06.20
If there's one thing Little Miss Queer in Your Ear here hates, it's making mistakes. Devout readers will recall my fondness for Live, those four rock & roll kids who've known each other almost their entire lives and play with commensurate tightness. But I'm still racking up demerit points like a tilted pinball machine for observing almost a year ago that they write "from what is obviously a devout Christian faith." Not!
Guitarist Chad Taylor, one of two Chads in the pride of Troy, Pennsylvania and the most charming, personable, open, and intelligent musician I've ever had the pleasure of a tightly-scheduled 20-minute press interview with, told me evenly that "Live doesn't really subscribe to any one particular religious denomination, creed, sect, or anything like that. I won't tell anybody what my religion is."
Very interesting. Does it have a name that people would recognize? "Yeah." So it's not a personally-tailored microreligion? "No," he says. "But I would love to claim that in the States for income-tax purposes." I heard Ed explain elsewhere that he writes of angels, heaven, crucifixen, and so on merely because they are grand archetypal symbols that served the lads' desire to write anthems for its first album, Mental Jewelry.
Well, here we are at album two, and what a multisensory pleasure Throwing Copper is. A tidied-up Live logotype (which rivals only the Kiss logo in suitability for scratching into washroom walls), a ruby-red CD jewel box, and a religious-themed cover painting by Peter Howson build excitement and anticipation even before you surrender the mustard-green disc to your inscrutable CD player. Mental Jewelry's quiet, almost weepy ruminations on morality and human decency have been stepped up from 110 volts to 220 on Throwing Copper.
"Selling the Drama," whose video is the first of Live's to be worth recording for keeps, throws around further religious symbols ("And to love a god, and to fear a flame, and to burn a crowd that has a name") and rivals any of a handful of R.E.M. ditties for ambiguity. But that's fine: This is music, an emotional, connotative medium. Things don't have to be nailed down.
In concert, the other Chad – Gracey – pounds his drums with the fierce concentration (no smiles, no throwing the head back, no nothin') of a pyrokinetic laboring to ignite a particularly stubborn chunk of asbestos. Tall, mesomorphic bassist Patrick Dahlheimer is a dead ringer for New Kid on the Block Donnie Wahlberg and confesses to having impersonated him once; he's also capable of manfully strumming away even while a roadie fixes a broken guitar strap in real time. Think of the other ways he could put that kind of coördination to use.
But back to the album. Most impressive is "Stage," another in pop music's meta-analyses of the star(let) lifestyle. The song rocks so darned hard it could be a speedmetal number: "I wanna feel. I wanna try. I wanna rock in the city tonight. I wanna deal, don't wanna die. I wanna bring my Captain Hook into the light.... He was a 'rock and roll messiah.' She was known for her childcare. The truth is gonna give up the world - if you can give up the stage, if I can give up the stage, if we can give up the stage." Halfway through the song, scrawny Ed bellows out a glute-clenching, raise-even-the-velus-hairs-of-your-body yowl of "Come on, motherfucker!" Oof! Who says swear words have lost their punch?
The Live boys are all heart, though, and the power of "Stage" is channeled into an unlikely dollop of empathy in the next track, "Waitress." It's based on the true-life experience of just one episode of lousy service too many for a band (half of whom are vegetarians) that eats out day after day when on tour. Even with a loud drum/guitar backing, Ed packs in weariness and earthy humanity: "Come on, baby, leave some change behind. She was a `bitch,' but I don't care. She brought our food out on time, wore a funky barrette in her hair." Later: "We all get the flu. We all get AIDS. We've got to stick together. After all, everybody's good enough for some change - some fucking cha-a-ange!"
So go buy their fucking album. It's the least you can fucking well do.