Great Music Comes Alive With the Living Things

State Hornet
Sacramento State University

Maybe it’s just me, but rock ‘n’ roll isn’t just about the sex and drugs anymore.

Take the Living Things for instance. Put together smooth sounding vocals, ripping guitar chords and an edgy attitude and you’ve got the recipe for a sound that’ll blow the mind of even the “punkiest” of rockers.

Not to mention that three of the four band members are brothers, the group doesn’t necessarily add any new elements to the annals of rock, but certainly does present some of the classics in its own, unique way.

Those classics can be heard on the St. Louis quartet’s debut album, “Ahead of the Lions,” which has been leaving a wake of impressed critics and rave reviews. The politically charged LP has a rich mix of sound and emotions and leaves no stone unturned as front man Lillian Berlin’s lyrical tirade assaults virtually everything but your grandmother.

“Ahead of the Lions,” opens with the aggressive but brief banging of “Bombs Below.” The political face of the “Living Things” shines through immediately as Berlin snarls and growls, “Bring the war/that’s what the kids are for.” The quick and repetitive Ramones-like beat stretches itself through the chorus while the catchy anti-war anthem aims itself directly at its target audience. So impressive is the raw and real sound of the mere first three minutes of this album that even if you’re a fan of W., “No solution/Just bombs below” will be stuck in your head the rest of the day.

The album plateaus until track seven introduces a dynamic twist to the already fresh sound. “No New Jesus,” throws a wrench into the established garage sound and draws a delicious comparison to Marilyn Manson’s “Mechanical Animals.” With lyrics about the hypocrisies of fashionable religion and its pervading loss of meaning, the song belts out a maverick message: “Wake up and cuff your hands/Wake up, your future has been planned.” Being a rebel hasn’t been this cool since “The Wall.”

If by the tenth track on the album you’re still not convinced as to the creative genius behind it, “Monsters of Man,” will make you a believer. The punk rock rhythm and echoing chorus is toe-tappingly catchy, but the real surprise on the track is the brass ensemble that dominates the chorus. The ska genre may have died years ago, but the clever introduction of a deep saxophone snare is enough to wistfully reminisce about where it all went wrong.

It’s not just the lyrics, the Marc Bolan-sounding vocals of Berlin, or the slightly unrefined approach that makes “Ahead of the Lions” a great album. Although a little too over the top at times, the record has an actual message, rather than senseless verbal diarrhea that is so commonly found on contemporary rock albums.