Album Review: LIFE – Popular Music

By on Thursday, 18th May 2017 at 12:00 pm
 

LIFE Popular Music album coverThere’s a lot of anger in the world today. For some people, their modus operandi is to deny the feelings, to pretend that bad things are not happening, to be an escapist. For others like working class rockers LIFE – yes, that’s all in caps, son – inaction is not an option. They’re not going to sit silent and idly by while the consequences of Brexit and the decisions pushed through by Tory autocrats irreparably change their country. Being from Hull, their lefty populist views come across as much more believable because they’re from a pocket of England that has traditionally been deemed insignificant. Further, as they’ve already pointed out in quite a few interviews, when you’re not from London, you don’t really get a lot of attention from the music industry. Making a big noise, then, isn’t just a choice but a necessity, isn’t it?

Taking that all together, it isn’t surprising that LIFE’s fiercely DIY debut album ‘Popular Music’ out next week is a cacophony of youthful, punk-y energy, bursting with vitriol against the establishment that hard-working folks like themselves feel is holding them down. Singer Mez Green says, “It’s an LP made up of the psyche of everyone who can see they’re getting fucked and there’s a lot of people getting fucked right now.” Straight out of the gate, you’re confronted with the sensation of unending pressure on ‘In Your Hands’, the band’s in-your-face reminder that it’s your life, and you’re probably going about it all wrong, much to their amusement. Organic food hounds, discount shoppers, coffee fiends who put their java on plastic: you’re not escaping scrutiny and a finger wagged at you.

Unstoppable locomotives of fury ‘Go Go Go’ and ‘Ba Ba Ba’ (are we sensing a theme here?) are full of relentless drumbeat thumps and guitar wailings. Listening to ‘Electricity’ is like being walloped repeatedly on the head whilst stuck in a dystopian society that unfortunately bears some resemblance to the one we’re currently find ourselves in, LIFE’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, if you will. One wonders which of these 11 songs it was that made an impression on PRS for Music Foundation. LIFE received their Momentum grant to record ‘Popular Music’ with Grammy-winning producer Ian Dowling down at The Fish Factory in London.

As loud and as angry as this album is, it’s not a total free-for-all. If the word ‘punk’ puts you off as it usually does for me, keep reading. The songwriting team of Mez and his younger, guitar-playing brother Mick Sanders have written a series of songs with witty lyrics, some purposefully humourous (they just sometimes get lost in all that aggressive rocking), and catchy melodies. ‘Rare Boots’, which Mez prefaced at SXSW 2017 by telling a seemingly low-key tale of shopping at Hull’s street market, is actually a peek into the lives of a group of young friends out and about. Presented in Austin with its memorable guitar hooks and obligatory screams, it was truly a fist-pump worthy moment. Arguably the most melodic track on the album, ‘Sugar God’, taps into Mick’s guitar virtuosity, less punk and more about providing a toe-tapping backdrop to Mez’s shrill choruses of “God / drives a man insane” that, of course, you’re encouraged to join in on.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qh62UUMBtQE[/youtube]

LIFE wouldn’t be a band speaking out for the disenfranchised if they didn’t hit out directly at some of the biggest political offenders as of late, would they? In case you missed it, their most overtly political moment on the album ‘Euromillions’ was released the week of President Trump’s inauguration back in January. It feels sinister as the song swings back and forth between blistering spoken word commentary against American and British right-wing nationalists and shouts of “Roll over! Roll over!” punctuating the proceedings. Like a love child of hip-hop and punk, it’s a nice reminder of the Sanders-Green brothers’ wordsmithing abilities, which put them ahead of the popular music pack they so delight in condemning. ‘Beautifully Skint’, in even more contrast with the rest of the album, is a stripped back retooling of their previous single ‘Take Off With You’. The minimal treatment on both instrumentation and vocals means Mez’s pained lyrics of escaping a dead-end life that much more poignant :“we were beautifully skint / washed our clothes in the sink / we used to eat tinned fruit / debate the drugs that we shoot”.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svgM6EDIPq4[/youtube]

Just like the liberal views it tends to advocate, punk isn’t for everyone. A fearless band from East Yorkshire wrote this album ‘Popular Music’ that distills the anxieties of youth in Britain. If you’re feeling forgotten, alone, like no one is hearing the anguish and troubles that are on repeat in your head, this was made for you. Turn it up loud.

8.5/10

LIFE’s debut album ‘Popular Music’ drops next Friday, the 26th of May. A live session the band did at Maida Vale in late March that aired on Huw Stephens’ late night programme on BBC Radio 1 can be listened to here for the next 26 days. To read more on LIFE on TGTF, including my coverage of them at SXSW 2017, use this link.

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