Review : Living Things - Habeas Corpus
BillboardWhen it comes to the current geopolitical situation, Living Things' mantra is closer to "Maybe we can." On their first album in four years, the St. Louis-formed quartet eschews Obamamania to point out during the course of 11 songs that wars are still raging, the economy is still floundering and power still corrupts. Frontman/lyricist Lillian Berlin urges his listeners to "take to the streets," if necessary, to enforce the will of the people. It's a heady manifesto, but "Habeas Corpus" never gets bogged down in rhetoric. Instead Living Things spring through a referential set of bouncy, glam-styled rock, dipping into dance/new wave flavors on "Mercedes Marxist" and "Oxygen," rootsy Americana on "Island in Your Heart," blues on "Snake Oil Man" and "Shake Your Shimmy" and punk anthems on "Brass Knuckles." —Gary Graff...full text
BlenderLiving Things are proud radicals who direct their musical outrage at the direst current events—war, oppression, plunder. Yet stylistically they’re retro, committed to an idealized ’60s garage psychedelia stripped of blooze strutting and doped-out solos. Yoking their opener to an instantly hummable “Take to the streets and run with me,” then qualifying that message by singing about the equally catchy attractions of backyards that rhyme with credit cards, they’re hip enough not to worry about ideological consistency. In a way, in fact, inconsistency is a principle for them. Wordman Lillian Berlin murmurs more than he declaims and prefers to share vocals with members of a shifting communal entity dubbed the “Living Things Choir,” and if that fuzzes up the lyrics, well, like most bands, Living Things are more into emotions than ideas anyway. It’s just that their emotions are about the end of capitalism....full text
AllmusicThere's nothing like a lack of success to put fear into a band. Take Living Things, for example. Their 2005 debut, Ahead of the Lions, was tough, aggressive hard punk produced by that avatar of indie cred Steve Albini, but apart from some good reviews, it didn't receive that much attention, so they decided to get ironic and Eurotrashy for their second album, Habeas Corpus -- a sound that doesn't quite fit with the album's stated attempt to chronicle Americana "from St. Louis through Chicago, New York City and London," but fits them better anyway. Try as they may -- and they do try, writing lyrics based on headlines that flit through their RSS feeds -- Living Things aren't a deep band: they're pastiche poseurs, sneering about Mercedes Marxists in a manner that suggests there's nowhere they'd rather be than cruising down Melrose in that very Mercedes. Fortunately, Living Things' half-baked political sloganeering is buried underneath hip retro synths (the stiff riffs and surging chorus of "Oxygen" suggesting nothing so much as the Killers), stupid stomping glam beats cut up on a computer, and straightened-out sleaze rock -- all cut with a bit of a narcotic hazy drone borrowed from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who borrowed it from the Jesus and Mary Chain. Despite the catch phrases and recycled riffs, nothing about Habeas Corpus is authentic -- it's all trashy punk that trivializes anything it touches -- but what's fun about it is that Living Things do it all without a sense of awareness: they don't know how silly they are, so they wind up with a record that amounts to a guilty pleasure for a time when nobody feels any guilt about anything....full text
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