ALBUM | The punk group wants nothing less than to expose society in the 2010s for what it is
This album is going to be a rejuvenating punk explosion.
LIFE rocketed out of Hull, U.K. last year as if they'd come from a cleaner version of the late seventies, full of disillusioned rage and scowling observations. The band introduced themselves with the title song of their upcoming debut album, Popular Music. And a fitting introduction, it is.
"Totally off my face, I listen to popular music," Mez sings rapidly, over and over, like a speeding mantra for the band. "Popular Music" rips along behind his fast lyrics with an energy that speaks for itself. The group of four mans the classic punk setup: drums, bass, guitar and vocals in whatever order they feel like putting them. And it sounds like it.
The breathless vocals are matched by Formula 1 guitar and a drum/bass combo that rumbles with speed. They played the song live on BBC Introducing, all in black and with reckless vitality. The B-side of the single has also found a place on the debut LP: called "Membership Man," it shows off a more rock and roll song construction while holding onto all of that energy and aggression. He's a "white-collar Medusa," Mez sings in the song that barely hits the two-minute mark, "a Membership Man."
If LIFE were nothing else, they'd at least be exciting performers. But they're much more than that.
Three more tracks are available now off the upcoming album. "In Your Hands" takes on modern culture's obsession with fads and trends: "Buy green, or organic, eating macrobiotic / Watch adverts that tell ya shopping's erotic." The lyrics are constantly aware and unforgivingly critical. Mez's frantic singing/rapping fits the frustrated mood perfectly.
"Ba Ba Ba" starts with ultra-intense riffing and screaming that never really calms down for more than a line or two. Even in the verses, Mick's guitar sounds off like an alarm in the background. The evil, unintelligible dream voices in the bridge lead back into the crazed "Ba ba ba ba ba's" of the chorus, a meaningless series of shouted sounds that, as the album's next-to-last song, is a kind of palate-cleanser for the closing track, "Euromillions."
In the most politically engaged (enraged might be the better word) song out so far, LIFE take on the current moment, from the extreme nationalism and disastrous politics that's lead to Brexit and Trump to the racism and ignorance pervading what was supposed to be civilized society. "Big Bob of little England," he sings of his own country, England, "Dragon-slayer, bulldog / Wrapped in a red cross, draws a ring around himself." He follows this with an equally scathing take on the post-election U.S.: "Fat Bill of white America, redneck, racist eagle / Draped in delusion, builds a wall across his borders."
Packed with loaded keywords and historical allusions, these are some of the best lines written so far this year. Like a collage of references, they instantly bring to mind all of the unsavory images that have dominated the media for the past two years and confine them to four short lines in the middle of a single song. It doesn't trivialize what's happening; by putting the disasters in the U.K. and the U.S. right next to each other, it forces listeners to hear the absurdity in similarity.
This closing track is full of quotable lines: "Freedom isn't locking your doors," he sings, and as the song's chant, "You have the right to bare arms if you've got the right colored arms." LIFE are keenly aware of the problems of the world and how to put them into a rhythmic line. The album drops May 26 and looks to be a rejuvenating punk explosion that's willing to take on the world. After all, an album that starts and ends like this one must have more in store than we can imagine.