Sunday, January 13, 2008

Defending the Music X: Fear is not the End of this

Now as I begin writing this entry I realise that I am almost as excited to be writing this entry as I was to write about The Clash. In fact the feeling is kind of boosting my awareness of my love for this band. I can tell I'm going to be listening to them a lot this week.

Okay, who are they?
Right, but the Band is...?
Not The Band. Live.
But who is the group?
Not The Who, either.
What is their name!?
I don't care. What do they call themselves!
I'm going to punch you right in the mouth...

If there is one thing I don't like about LIVE, the band, it's their name. I've had "Who's on First?" conversations like the above - I don't know how many times. Imagine if they had been a group that was truly obscure. I think that they actually kind of blew it on the name. It has only ever hurt them. There are all kinds of people who know of their two notable hits (one of which was positively enormous) who don't know the name of the band. I'm sure that if they'd had an easier name to deal with that they'd have reached a lot more people.

Back in 1992, when I was on tour with the Juanabees, one of the four of us on tour that year bought Live's first widely released album, "Mental Jewelry," on a whim. Despite being the same year that Nirvana's 'Nevermind' was released - and similarly close on the heels of other seminal albums like "Ten," "Pretty Hate Machine" and (dare I admit it?) "Gordon," "Mental Jewelry" matched and even out-paced those albums for play time. There was something about the big sound of the music that appealed to us. Sure Pearl Jam had a huge sound, but Live wrote songs that sounded vast, like landscaping with guitars. Buddhism never sounded so massive. (Their lyrics are heavily influenced by Buddhism.) At the end of the tour everyone of us bought a copy. And this was the album before they hit it big.

Two years later when "Throwing Copper" spent a year in the top ten (back when that still barely meant something) based largely on the strength of "Lightning Crashes" ("Oooooh! THAT song! Yeah, I love those guys too.") a year after it had been released... well, I've never had more of a "What took you so long to notice?" feeling.

They hit it big briefly once again in 2001 - though not in a way anyone would really want to. You may recall someone flying a plane into a building... they had just released a new album, "V," - one of the songs from it (thank god it wasn't the actual single, that would have been too crass) "Overcome" was used in an early tribute. It was a great song that fit the circumstances hauntingly well. It was used again... and again... and again. It was practically the 9/11 theme song.

I suppose in a way I'm glad that Live have never really maintained commercial success. I feel vindicated in my love for them by the massive success they briefly enjoyed, yet at the same time I get to keep them in that special place that other 'best kept secrets' like U2 and R.E.M. left so far behind that it feels dirty to still be on the band-wagon.

In preparing to write this I had a wonderful discovery... I (shamefully) admit that I had no idea that they released a pair of new songs this fall. But the up-side of that is that I've got something new to dive into, and "Radiant Sea" at first blush is one of the best songs they've released in nearly a decade.

Bonus trivia: The waiter who warns Jack that Marla shouldn't order the soup in 'Fight Club'... Live's lead singer - Ed Kowalczyk.

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