The sweeping guitar riffs that open up “Suburban Hymns” seems to have put the perfect-pop of individuals like Rivers Cuomo on its head. The very virtuosic (but low-key) guitar that makes its way through “My Last Hostage” is just part and parcel of a larger desire by The Life and Times to skillfully cloak themselves with the fuzz of a bygone period in alternative rock. The shuffling beat of “Coat Of Arms” really makes an impassioned plea to Suede and creates an intelligent brand of vocal swooning that befits the powerful, confident guitar and drums than just dominate the track. Continuing some of the strongest trends present on “Suburban Hymns”, The Life And Times during their “Charlotte St.” begin to show an interesting (But not in any way bad) disconnect between the vocal and music on the disc.
While many of the vocals on “Suburban Hymns” feel as if they are sang by someone meandering through life, there is little (maybe no) room for a similar style of leisurely flow with the work-horse-type of instrumentation on the disc. The disconnect largely breaks during the plodding, slower (more introspective) “Muscles Cars; here, the instruments maintain their prim and proper attitude but seem to match the vocals much better. It is perhaps these slower-tempo, more jiving type of tracks (“Thrill Ride” is another that fits into this categorization) that are The Life And Times’ largest victories on “Suburban Hymns”. The nuanced guitar work is lost at times during the more up-tempo sounds, and when the band exhibits the ability to coalesce their sound into one blast, the results are much more affecting than the two-track tracks.
As the band settles in and is comfortable after the disc’s first tracks, what results is an album cohesive in all terms; cohesive in terms to creating a unified sound and cohesive in making a sound that is the essence of “Suburban Hymns”. The guitar effects on “Running Redlights” even slows down the disc further, and lets listeners know that the band’s meat and potatoes really comes during the tracks when they can go out and experiment, instead of the anti-septic lightly-dressed pop-rock of tracks like “My Last Hostage”. The Life And Times come out with a very experimental album in “Suburban Hymns”; the penultimagte “Mea Culpa” mixes together Red Hot Chili Peppers, goth music and the moderating force of the indie rock that sustains them; there is not a place on “Suburban Hymns” where a listener will feel as if the band is phoning in a performance or are not working up to their potential.
Top Tracks: Muscle Cars, Mea Culpa
The Life And Times – Suburban Hymns / 2005 Desoto / 10 Tracks / http://www.thelifeandtimes.com / http://www.desotorecords.com / Reviewed 28 June 2005