Pills and politics

Living Things’ new album gets high on political opinion.

PHOTO COURTESY ZOMBA RECORDINGS LLC

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY ZOMBA RECORDINGS LLC

Living Things ALBUM: âÄúHabeas CorpusâÄù LABEL: Jive If there is one thing that the guys from Living Things love, itâÄôs ranting about politics. Frontman Lillian Berlin evidently gets an overwhelming sense of gratification from melodically raging about assorted global problems, and those who resist PepsiâÄôs imposition of Will.i.am as their cultural spokesperson tend to rage with him. And despite the fact that half of their source material is now out of office, Living Things still find faults in the system and forcefully share their criticisms with the world. The St. Louis bandâÄôs sophomore record, relevantly and borderline-ridiculously titled âÄúHabeas Corpus,âÄù finds the Berlin brothers delivering the same goods as previous endeavors. Hard guitars and throbbing drumbeats are the only suitable backdrop for leftist lyrics, after all. But unlike its Steve Albini-produced predecessors, âÄúHabeas CorpusâÄù sounds a bit too processed. The oomph is gone and the tunes occasionally blend together (on âÄúMercedes MarxistâÄù and âÄúLet It RainâÄù), achieving that nondescript effect that is so prevalent in todayâÄôs hard rock. Fortunately, the albumâÄôs sound is only intermittently tame while its lyrical fangs are as sharp as ever. Lillian rails on the usual subjects âÄî prescription pills and unwarranted wars are this bandâÄôs bread and butter. The album opens with âÄúBrass Knuckles ,âÄù a call to arms that, while clichéd and moderately out of date, is successfully rousing. These guys know that Washington still has problems, and the chorus says it all, as Lillian spouts, âÄúTake to the streets and run with me.âÄù HeâÄôs not talking about an afternoon jog; heâÄôs talking about putting a brick through the other guyâÄôs windshield (metaphorically). âÄúDirty BombsâÄù and âÄúSnake Oil ManâÄù are the albumâÄôs best overtly political tracks (of which there are many). Lillian decries AmericaâÄôs wartime policies, stating in the former, âÄúWe can work this out/without your dirty bombs,âÄù while the latter stresses that, âÄúOur means may differ/but our aim is the same/War is just murder/with a noble name.âÄù The brunt of their attack is always in the chorus, hooking with catchy riffs while concurrently burning their message into their listenersâÄô brains. Rounding out the tail end of the album is another Ritalin-inspired denunciation from the self-proclaimed poster child for ADD awareness. In âÄúDrugstore BumminâÄô,âÄù Lillian, who was medicated as a child and has long since angrily condemned it, sweetly croons over the backdrop of acoustic guitar and keys that call back to classic rock. But this outward contentment is quietly betrayed by lyrical content that makes it clear how the band views pharmaceuticals, as Lillian intones, âÄúDrugstore bumminâÄô/ everybodyâÄôs nothing but a tragedy/these days.âÄù Apparently Living Things havenâÄôt lost their edge amidst the political shifts of the last four years. And while times are a-changinâÄô and hope is in the air, these guys arenâÄôt entirely sold. TheyâÄôre not even cautiously optimistic, knowing full well that America is facing an enormous set of crises and that the people need to hold the government and themselves accountable, otherwise âÄúthe kingdom will fall/and take us all.âÄù 3.5 Stars