The Life and Times – The Life and Times

3 out of 5

Label: Slimstyle Records

Produced by: The Life and Times

I come to The Life and Times for my mid-tempo fix: never too fast or slow; never too loud or quiet; Allen Epley’s voice coasting between yearning and desperation… And while that’s all sort of a backhanded “I like yor blase sound, boy” compliment, the reason the group has remained in my rotation – and the reason that their songs / albums are capable of blasting past the background sound barrier – is that most L&T’s tracks contain the subtlest of knob twists, or the slightest off-brand beat or chord, such that you start actually paying attention. Once you’re in, the music opens up: cascading waves of distortion; emotive and purposeful drumming; imagery and lyrics that are so beautifully love-lost-and-never-found downbeat. The group will occasionally try for something more directly contemplative that sidesteps this, but more often than not, you’re guaranteed some sticks-in-yer-head riffage and wonderfully humable harmonies from Epley.

But sometimes they forget to twiddle those knobs, or to go off brand. On their fifth, self-titled full-length, The Life and Times are playing it rather safe. Flourishes are either mixed in incredibly low or so inconsequential as to not really be present, and the songs tend not to evolve into those key heart-breaking moments when a riff kicks in; rather, they start things off with that riff and then just play it through. Which, on the plus side, makes things pretty accessible up front – opener Killing Queens, and tracks like I Am The Wedding Cake and T=D/S have some killer hooks, and hit that mid-range, slidey guitar L&T sound really well – but they never really quite make it past that aforementioned background barrier this time. Tracks make their mark and just hover there, with only center track Out Through The In Door feeling like it actually evolves, and has motion. Either due to the way the disc never exceeds a certain level, or possibly because musical innovation took a backseat, Epley’s lyrics do come across as particularly sharp, with clear and creative expressions regarding his love-life woes, but the music simply doesn’t linger in your thoughts the way some of the group’s better material does.

‘The Life and Times’ still definitely satisfies that mid-tempo fix, though it’s very a much a temporary, fleeting fix this time.