The President is disappointed in The Living Things, and he hopes that they will make an effort to be sensitive to the American people. Because the American people understand…The Living Things are un-American and I wish they would stop with this hogwash. Wooooah. Sorry. That was weird. I had a little miniature Donny Rumsfeld on my shoulder. I swear, he just appeared from nowhere. Little glasses, the suit, the comb over—everything. It’s cool, though. I made a move to brush him off with a screwdriver and he just went poof and disappeared. Whew. Anyway, onward I write.
This E.P. has been floating around in the weeks since South by Southwest, held in the twenty-something college culture of Austin, Texas. Apparently, The Living Things stirred things up a bit, speaking out vulgarly against the then impending war in Iraq. But by all reports, the band has one of the best live rock shows to surface in quite some time. Coming out of St. Louis, The Living Things are comprised of three brothers: songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Lillian Berlin, bassist Eve, and drummer Bosh. Yes, strange names.
In one of the more remarkable stories I’ve heard from the music industry, The Living Things were offered a major label deal with Capitol Records after playing their first show at The Viper Room in Los Angeles. Over the course of the following months, five offers had trickled in, and eventually, The Living Things decided to go with Dreamworks. To quote Lillian, “It felt like Dreamworks was somewhat less full of shit than everyone else.”
Turn in Your Friends and Neighbors was recorded in Chicago with the legendary Steve Albini, responsible for recording some minor acts here and there—The Pixies, The Breeders, Nirvana…mostly just the small bands like that. This release is four songs. Three on politics, one on relationships. Apparently only 20 or so, Lillian Berlin comes across as well-read, though his politics fall squarely in the ballpark of other extreme leftist acts. Some are throwing around comparisons to the Dead Kennedys and MC5. I suppose…It’s a little hard to tell from just three songs.
“Bombs Below” is the anti-war song. “Pick out the Meat” wrestles with societal roles, a tangled and at times cryptic message ranging from religious criticism to governmental revolt. “Standard Oil Trust,” is, well, the tried and true anti-imperialist, anti oil-trust statement. “Bloody Nose,” is that odd song out about the girl. But there IS that one song about the girl. Politics and relationships, here yet again, hand in hand.
The Living Things play with that familiar throwback rock sound, maybe a little more old-school Detroit than the current industry trend. At times the band sound like a deeper slower Ramones, at times like MC5. Again, it’s hard to gauge based on the brevity of the E.P. If you’re really into the extreme leftist (no grey area) politics of Anti-Flag, Dead Kennedys, Propagandhi, etc, check this out. But I still recommend waiting for the full-length debut, also recorded by Albini, which will be released on Dreamworks later this year.
And heed my lesson learned. If a little Donny Rumsfeld pops up on your shoulder, too—don’t panic. Just brush him off and continue on, knowing that you are not alone.