Past Lives - Strange Symmetry (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Past Lives

Strange Symmetry (2008)

Suicide Squeeze

Past Lives' description on paper provides a surprisingly accurate insight into what they actually sound like. After all, it's three-fifths of the defunct Blood Brothers -- and one of those fifths isn't co-vocalist Johnny Whitney -- along with Rumors Laid Waste-era Blood Devin Welch, who's also in the Seattle/Melbourne act Shoplifting. Yeah…I didn't know who Shoplifting was either, but one listen to them here and the pervading elements are immediately clear.

The ensemble's debut EP, Strange Symmetry, provides another portrait of the jaunty, abstract, partially dance-infused and occasionally hyperactive indie rock that occasionally flared up on the Bloods' final effort, 2006's Young Machetes. "Beyond Gone" rolls in as an unassuming, slow-burning opener that gives it a vibe somewhere between introductory track and legitimate composition; the "Oh-oh / no curtain call" refrain becomes an uncomfortable but memorable melody.

As the first three tracks of Strange Symmetry progress, the band gets increasingly spastic and energetic, providing more and more of a clean, consoling followup to the Bloods. The title track stutter-steps through three minutes until "Skull Lender" comes in with drummer Mark Gajadhar rhythmically flailing away at his kit and vocalist Jordan Blilie getting a little more cathartic in his delivery. "Reverse the Curse" mostly cuts off the crescendo of intensity, piling on the reverb to creepy effect; a quick bridge features Blilie's caterwaul scream, though.

Even lyrically, Blilie seems to offer both shades of the familiarly weird and complex imagery of his past with more standard fare. In the title track, he lets us know that strange symmetry has got him drowning in twins pawning talk from the dollar bin; later, he tells a calculator to calculate and trade the people it knows for a key to a kingdom of rats. But in "Skull Lender," his jaded sentiments are a little more relatable: "I don't need ancient wisdom, dull and old. I don't need future visions. / […] / Give me something here and now that I an use."

Comparisons between the Blood Brothers and Past Lives will seemingly be inevitable for some time to come, and both the musical and lyrical parallels present won't make things any easier. Past Lives aren't quite at that same devastating point of salient chemistry the Bloods eventually hit, but considering Strange Symmetry is only their first release, it's far from a bad start.

Strange Symmetry EP