The Life and Times - Suburban Hymns (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

The Life and Times

Suburban Hymns (2005)


Prior to listening to Suburban Hymns, the only Life and Times I gave a damn about were those of Sean Carter. And that wasn't even close to being Jay-Z's best album.

The band Life and Times though, I'm sure would hope people hold their album in a bit higher regard. Well, what should they be expecting? On the whole, a mix of pre-`90s U2 and R.E.M. with some dark, atmospheric elements thrown in there as well. The album still sounds like it was recorded in 2005, but both of those influences are more than prevalent on this album. And it's from there you'll probably already be able to decide whether or not you'll be inclined to like this. If you do find yourself liking those bands' early works, you'll be bountifully rewarded by songs like "Charlotte St," which has some real similarities to Michael Stipe's at times incoherent mumble. Then at other points, it seems as if singer Allen Epley is channeling Dave Matthews in his more desperate moments. Interesting, to say the least. Vocals aside, from a songwriting standpoint, just about everything to be found here is solid.

Each member of the band is given ample time to show the listener they're able to contribute to the overall feel of each song on the album. Eric Albert's thick bass grooves serve as a great transition between verse and chorus in "Skateland," but never really fully disappears during either of those instances. As mentioned before, it's a very mood-driven album.

A very somber, desolate one at that.

The music and arrangements never rise far above a dull roar, opting instead for a very cold, quiet, and mechanical feel, as exemplified with "Thrill Ride." The pounding of the drums eerily never ceases, while Epley cascades eerily along throughout. The problem with this sort of a vocal style is that it begins to grow difficult when it comes to differentiating song from song. Songs like "Skateland" do stick out above the others, but when he's singing in a more low-tempo song, it's all just a blur. "A Chorus of Crickets" starts with that similar monotony, but does see louder moments before the sounds of crickets aptly end the album.

Even after a few listens, I don't know quite where I stand on this album. As a collective whole, the Life and Times are able to evoke very certain moods, but does that also become a detractor when things run together? That'll be up to you.