V marks the next step in the evolution of Live
By TOM O'CONNELL
Scene Music Critic
Besides being a talented rock group, Live is known for its intense spiritual themes. Live has long been a band of searchers, mixing values and styles from both east and west. The band's fifth release, V is definitely an exploratory album. Unlike so many other bands, it asks questions instead of just giving answers. In this self-reflexive album, Live speaks candidly about its own personally journey — and it's not just a generic story of an average anonymous struggle.
Being careful to avoid pretension, the band has no problem admitting that it has neither reached its destination nor found the answers. But after all, it's the journey, not the destination that really matters.
Mixing hard rock, tripped-out rap interludes and peaceful ballads, V does not lay down a series of radio-friendly easy hits. Singer/guitarist Ed Kowalczyk is an extremely charismatic front man, and fans can only hope he has what it takes to pull off an album like this. Luckily, he does and guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey provide Kowalczyk with plenty of support.
From the earnest opening track "A Simple Creed," Live let their fans know just what they have in store for them. With eerie guest vocals from Tricky, the song sums it all up nicely; "We gotta love each other." Amen.
"Deep Enough" is a pseudo-comic song full of bitter sexual tension. Though hurt, Kowalczyk can still laugh as he makes fun of his ex's elderly new boyfriend: "Are those replacement hips?/ Is that a Swatch watch?"
"People Like You" is an anthem for the music lover who will not compromise. Refusing to conform to the empty mainstream glitter of today's popular music, the song gives hope for a better musical future. "Whatever it's gonna take/ Good luck, keep it real/ Where are the boys from LIVE?"
Live has built its reputation and devoted fan base in part because of their mesmerizing live shows. "Transmit Your Love" speaks of their love of performing and how it keeps the band and their fans in tune with their message. "Transmit your love to me and/ Silently make me whole again." "OK?" begs the listener to give up his 20th century "necessities" and find a way to live a no frills life, free of materialism.
However, not everything on V is such an angry, hard tune. "Call Me A Fool" and "Nobody Knows" take the album down to a simmer, making good use of Kowalczyk's smooth and casual vocal abilities. In 1997, in a critical review of Live's third album, Secret Samadhi, "RollingStone" told the band to "Save the string section for the fifth album, boys." Well guess what? They did. And they did it well. "Overcome," a gorgeous ballad overflowing with quiet piano and a beautiful string ensemble, may be on par with Live's biggest hit, the 1994 classic "Lightning Crashes."
What separates Live from so many other bands is that they are not afraid to make music that they know won't hit the top spot on the charts. They've already been there with 1994's six-times platinum Throwing Copper. Now, like REM, U2 and Pearl Jam before them, Live has spent some time in an experimental stage.
It's always a conflict when a great band goes experimental. Part of you appreciates that they can evolve out of what made them famous, but sometimes you just wish your old friends were back. It takes guts to be at the top and then change direction, especially when everyone else is telling you to keep going straight. Sales may fall off, but at least you have your soul. To Live, that's far more important than money.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, September 25, 2001