Can a person truly be nostalgic about something they were not a part of originally? I couldn't tell you. Although I was introduced to Lifetime's music well after their original breakup, if I had to describe a feeling that encapsulates this record upon first listen, that would be it. From the moment a friend of mine played me "Knives, Bats, New Tats" I knew there was something unique about the music I was hearing. It was a torrent of energy and grit that could send a multitude of bodies into a frenzy but it was combined with an equally strong foothold in pop sensibility (like, even your little sister could enjoy it). Those were two things that hit me when I first threw on this record, but also with a sense of new and freshness to break the dreaded cloud of a purely 'nostalgia' act.
After nearly a decade of not being a band it would be easy to conclude the same group of guys might be a little rusty. If you have been keeping up with guitarist Dan Yemin at all you would soon realize that none of the projects this man has been associated with has been sub-par. Essentially it would appear he is the main creative force musically, and he hasn't changed that aspect one bit. In terms of actual sound, the band opted to not use long-time collaborator Steve Evetts on the production end this time around (though he did mix the songs). To be honest these recordings do sound cleaner than their past records to a degree but that does not mean the production is bad or laminates Lifetime's music with slick industry gloss. As for frontman Ari Katz, he hasn't had quite as much practice using his voice and his last project, Zero Zero, was less than stellar. His voice doesn't have as much grit as it once did, but that is understandable; in any event, I'd argue he seems far more confident than ever before in his vocal ability.
"Haircuts and T-Shirts" occupies the first side of the single and starts things in classic Lifetime fashion. There is a short drumstick intro before the guitars come in and then the full band explodes together. For portions of the two-minute blast the guitars are fairly subdued relying largely on the drums. This is quite effective because Scott Golley's fast-paced rhythms anchor everything and become the centerpiece. Of the two songs on the 7", I'd say this is the least straightforward of the two. That doesn't hinder the song because Lifetime's specialty is not necessarily relying on the classic verse/chorus/verse pop song model while still ensnaring your mind through a strong sense of melody. Ari's last final repeated words of "you're the only one for me, I told you already" cast a melodic specter in your mind that you'll hope and pray to take up permanent residence.
The album's B-side, "All Night Long" is one of the band's most accessible songs to date. Actually, when I first heard the song, I feared due to its slower pace that the band had lost some of their edge. Of course, songs like "Bobby Truck Tricks" and "Hey Catrine" worked in some slower territory but the cleaner production leans an added emphasis on the pop side of things. As if sensing this expectation of softness, true to their veteran form they pick things up for one final pit-rousing go-of-it during the last 30 seconds of the song. The verses are largely based around a simple but memorable chugging riff that really helps bring out Dave Palaitis' bass work. As I mentioned before, Ari sounds confident as ever; he always had the ability to make words mix sometimes unexpectedly into a melody that didn't even sound like English sometimes, but with this song his sense of melody has been honed to a practically unrivaled degree.
Both songs are of a personal relationship-based nature, but if the band started talking about something silly like politics we'd have to cry sellout. Sure, they might be more accessible than ever but with each release up 'til now Lifetime has navigated that path anyway; thus, this is a logical progression. If they prove one thing with this release it is that they are a relevant, fully functioning band. Nostalgia is for suckers.