Smile Politely

History will eat itself

Hum, Doves, Failure, Swervedriver; boomy, groovy, heavy, spacy, hazy, huge, and LOUD. Thus concludes the shortlist of obligatory historical and aural forefathers and adjectives needed to give context to The Life and Times’ new record No One Loves You Like I Do, and their forthcoming performance at The Highdive. Now that these necessary references are out of the way, let’s not go about comparing these gentlemen to much else besides themselves.

Indeed, Allen Epley (vocals, guitar, keys) hasn’t many muses trapped in the past. Despite his oldband Shiner’s upcoming reunion celebrating the first pressing of their magnum opus The Egg to vinyl, Epley — along with bandmates Eric Abert (bass, keys) and Chris Metcalf (drums, keys) — has ever pushed forward. When I interviewed him last year, the only subject that ruffled him whatsoever was my bringing up the fact that their first and last full-lengths were both recorded at Earth Analog. Rather than having come full circle, it seems they’re simply not in Kansas anymore. To wit: “I would put Suburban Hymns under my pillow at the end of the day and sleep comfortably,” Epley said. “But [since] The Magician and then Tragic Boogie [the music has] become more focused and we’ve kind of realized what we do.”

No One Loves You Like I Do finds the power trio realizing exactly what they’ve done. They’ve grown so close as a band that they forewent the long, drawn out sojourns and struggles of trying to outdo, or worse yet, reinvent themselves. They let the record come out of them with haste, yet not force. It’s no surprise this most recent effort is their most direct: they took refuge in Tolono and made a song a day. They walked in with nothing, and came out with a record.

It is by definition a concept record; they entrained with intent. Each track is named after the day on which they wrote and recorded that song. It simulates the effect of a stretch of time, determined and endured. Bound by will. The experience enclosed in the ten tracks takes the listener through a slew of emotions and impressions.The musical motifs are expected but never repetitive — except when there are loops looping and drones going. The narrative seams its way through the sonic tapestry, lulling with fancy and fuzziness. However, when Epley croons his umpteenth “love,” you wonder what’s really going on. 

The tension between commitment and submission, devotion and obsession, affection and aggression are quite aptly explored in the music video for “Day One”: 

Anyone who’s heard The Life and Times records knows their meticulous attention to technical detail never fails to achieve its dreamy and deep end. Anyone who’s seen their live show remembers at least how astoundingly loud it was. And bright, with white light. 

The light of a thousand suns.

What one can expect from Sunday’s rock show is certainly loudness and brightness, and furthermore tightness. After signing with MTV subsidiary label Slim Style, The Life and Times have toured extensively both coasts. This last stretch finds them leaving New England, coming up from the South, back into the Midwest. Their ultimate goal on this run is a Kansas City showcase at SXSW.

Full disclosure folks: my band Withershins is opening this show; however, I don’t mind writing about them because I’d be writing about them even if I weren’t playing the show. I first saw them play to maybe a baker’s dozen at the Courtyard Café maybe four or so years ago, and I was dumbfounded. It’s a real honor to open for them, and I hope you come; not for me, but for yourselves. I truly believe they are making some of the most interesting sounds and choices in rock and roll today. You won’t be disappointed. You might be deafened, though.

Alpha Mile, Withershins, and The Life and Times will play The Highdive at 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 4th.

Photos by Isaac Arms.

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