Modern Life Is War / Brooks Strause - live in Brooklyn (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Modern Life Is War / Brooks Strause

live in Brooklyn (2007)

live show

Tuesday night at Brooklyn's Club Europa was an absolute trainwreck in scheduling.

Doors were scheduled to open at 7:00, but Disnihil -- the first of five bands on the bill -- didn't take the stage until 8:11. Guess what? Long Island's best group of t-shirt and jean-clad suburban dudes playing D-beat hardcore made up for it tenfold. This was hands down the best I've seen them. Granted, those past four or five times have included nothing but rental halls, basements and the back room of a record store, so I'm sure a venue designed to produce excellent acoustics helped. Still, they played incredibly tight and in sync with one another, only noticeably messing up once or twice, and momentarily at that. It was a pure, unbridled 19 minutes of sheer intensity with speedy, brief flashes of more complex guitar riffs, with a couple new songs from their first, forthcoming full-length, This City Is Dead. It shows off an ambitious quality that mixes it up well. All in all, Disnihil friggin' killed, and I imagine This City Is Dead will be one of this year's more impressive debuts.

I think One Dead Three Wounded is pretty decent on record, but as their set wore on here I kinda felt unsettling Victory/nü-metalcore vibes and Taste of Chaos-minding riffs. It sort of shook my faith in them being one of the more promising metalcore bands around, which was a pity since that's a bit of a small populace. Anyway, they got pretty shafted -- after maybe four or five songs, the house music came on and that was pretty much it: 16 minutes due to the show's late start. That was perfectly all right with me however, as I cringed a little more with each disappointing moment.

A Death Before Dishonor set in New York City, huh? I half-expected Razor Ramon to step onto the floor and spit his toothpick into the face of some fitted-wearing hooligan. Alas, the crowd wasn't terribly violent, but that might be due to the amount of hype I built in my mind for it. I watched from near the bar as lots of dudes with leg tats and overly tough complexes idled on the floor. Maybe DBD just played one too many unfamiliar new songs during their 20 minutes. In any event, only during DBD's set-closing, insightful anthem of brotherly love, "6.6.6. (Friends Family Forever)," was one real punch thrown (you know, the "completely randomly dive into a section of the crowd to throw a punch" type). If you love beatdown hardcore or what have you I'm sure you'd have or already do love it, but aside from sporadic riffs I really wasn't having any of it.

Modern Life Is War did something different on this tour, bringing along Iowan folky Brooks Strause. Strause surprisingly played just prior to MLIW, and even more surprisingly was pretty fucking good. The man sported a beard that'd make Sam Beam beam and laid down five or six songs that were fairly diverse considering it was only him and a guitar. Strause sang of devilish women, needin' the devil, and plenty more devil references if my mind has it right, as the roar of bar chatter distractedly filled every vocal-less moment. Strause didn't seem to let it get him down, though. With definite bits of Dylan and Waits soaking his already whiskey-coated, heavily gravel-induced voice, Strause surely impressed me for the 20 minutes on stage he was given -- enough to pick up his fairly cheap (a negotiable $5) 13-song CD, at least.

It was assuredly exciting to preview some new material from Modern Life Is War and thus, it definitely ended up as one of the highlights from the band's tidy, 12-song, 30-minute set. It sounded as though vocalist Jeff Eaton called the first of the three new songs they played "Staggerly" -- it was "a bastardization of an old folk song" and I'm sure someone will pick up the reference better than I. Two others, including what I could swear (but am probably off) was called "The Motorcycle Before It Rains," were also played. The three did not include "These Mad Dogs of Glory," though. All three did share the similar distinction of being incredibly fucking heavy though -- moreso than anything Modern Life Is War has yet laid to tape, yet in keeping with the same custom restraint that marked Witness. It obviously moves them even farther from traditional hardcore territory and more into an inherently massive, colossal sound. The middle song of the three ("Motorcycle") was harrowed and even more intense than MLIW is usually known for being, with a number of tempo and mood swings throughout. During the last of the three, Strause came on and demonically growled a section of the song -- hopefully he really does contribute such a part on the album, which according to Eaton, by the way, tops out at 11 songs and 30 minutes.

Of course, the familiar material was what set the room off. Nothing could really match the show at 538 Johnson Ave. just a single month earlier in the same borough, but it was still a wonderful camaraderie in the audience. Eaton completely ignored the sound guy's requests for him to tell the crowd not to stage dive -- it was funny hearing "can you tell them not to stage dive?" and have Eaton immediately look at the crowd and say "so this new song is about..." Instead, the occasional body flew aerodynamically off the two and a half-foot high rise and awkwardly onto a couple of disheveled crowd members. The band played the first five off Witness, a couple older ones, and ended perfectly with a closing trio of "D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.," "By the Sea" and their trademark cover of " Nervous Breakdown" -- it was bliss. Sure, the set could've been mixed up a bit with the personal wish list additions of "Destination: Death or Better Days" and "Self-Preservation," but I'll take business as usual with some fresh tastes most days of the week.

Set list (10:25-11:05):

  1. The Outsiders
  2. Martin Atchet
  3. -----
  4. Late Bloomers
  5. -----
  6. Staggerly (?) [new song]
  7. -----
  8. John and Jimmy
  9. Marshalltown
  10. -----
  11. First & Ellen
  12. -----
  13. The Motorcycle Before It Rains (???) [new song]
  14. [new song f/ Brooks Strause]
  15. -----
  16. D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.
  17. By the Sea
  18. Nervous Breakdown (Black Flag cover)