How do you keep fresh after 15 years in a genre that is a niche inside a nook inside a crannie inside a lost geocache in No Man’s Land? Beats me, but The Life and Times are unto something with their latest release, The Life and Times. It’s a great album that somehow manages to intertwine two different side of the band. Curious about choosing the album’s title to be eponymous. Could it be that after a decade and a half (!), the band has decided to plant a flag and hold their territory, manifest destiny style?
Perhaps. Maybe. But no.
Heck, why do a review when I could fuel a few conspiracy theories for your reading displeasure?The first five tracks of this album represent “Life”, with their bodacious rock stylings and punchy attitude, the last four track represent “Time”, with an easier pace that is both thoughful and introspective. That seems the idea behind the album title: a representation of the two ideas captured by a band that flies with a Space Rock flag unfurled.
‘Killing Queens’ and ‘Dear Linda’ are pure, classic The Life and Times. Precise rhythm section, breezy guitars and Allen Epley‘s dreamy vocals, the ones that turn a whisper to a scream.
Still doubtful about the Space Rock prowess of The Life and Times? Well, no one likes a doubting Thomas, so I’ll help you fit in with the Cosmonautic Crowd of Cool (TM) and recommend you relisten this album. Focus on the sheer magic of that rope a dope that is ‘Group Think’ & ‘I am the wedding cake’. The fierceness of ‘Group Think’ strikes all the right notes, with an umami-like aftertaste that segues just fine into ‘I am the wedding cake’. The majestic beauty of ‘I am the wedding cake’ can be distilled into its pace: it’s the structure of Space Rock, right there, like a Brutalist building. Tragic chords that shift oblique, a drum that pulls more emotions than Steve Vai after sniffing snuff and a bassline with clockwork precision that manages to catch you before you go into escape velocity. Sheer poetry.
‘Out through the door’ is the middle of the album and it’s where the shift comes. Sure, Chris Metcalf has that drumming pattern mastered and could do it blindfolded, but there’s something here, ready to burst out like an underwater methane bubble. And just like a limnic eruption, the ending of this track is chilling. It’s a perfect cue for a tonal shift that is a reward for those wanting The Life and Times tackle other flavours of the genre.
‘Falling Awake’ feels like when you sleepwalk back and forth to your day job. You slept your 8 hours, but still zombie your way through the payday. Hear that buzzing? It’s the daily commute, channeling a groove that will be your day to day. And it feels fine, because it’s the instrumental gem ‘Dark Mavis’. The electronic splashes that the band embraced in Lost Bees come back, giving us a joyous track that goes wordless. No lyrics required, just go along with the ride.
‘T=D/S’ goes the krautrock way, with a droning bass and drum approach that wraps you for comfort, then expels you violently into the sky, Team Rocket style.
With age, some measure of wisdom comes. Or so they say. You stop those frantic ramblings from your youth, pause for a moment and realize that not everything you wanted to do comes to reality. And that’s fine. It really is. That’s a thought to keep while you listen to the album closer, ‘We Know’, a reassuring mellow track that never loses the edge of what The Life and Times entails: a pause, meditation, realization and catharsis. Stop by a corner, lit up, finish it until it’s all ashes and maybe wipe the tears away. Life is a drag and Time and tide wait for no one, but it’s the passing essence of life what gives it an unparalleled beauty. That’s The Life and Times: space rock for your life after you hit the 30 (or 40) mark in your age. And that’s fine. It really is.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López