There’s a local band that’s made good here in Champaign-Urbana. No, I’m not talking about REO Speedwagon. I’m talking about The Living Blue. Formerly known as the Blackouts, this local foursome have emerged as the hometown heroes with a song on the One Tree Hill soundtrack and a brand new album that all the local insiders have named the best local bit of music produced.
On a whim, I bought the album and gave it a listen. If you like The Strokes/The Shins/The Hives, then these guys are for you. It’s all distorted guitar, and explosive percussion with a too under-the-mix vocal that sounds like every other dude from that one band on the radio. Their debut, Fire, Blood, Water, is crammed with riffs and licks, which actually pulls together into some well-crafted music occasionally. Others will no doubt disagree, but Stephen Ucherek’s vocals (complete with faux British accent that fades and comes back worse than Kevin Costner’s) are by far the weakest ingredient in what is arguably a song by song wall of sound.
Let’s give it a listen, shall we?
1. State of Affairs
Hand claps and driving guitar. I’m liking this so far… oh, crap he starts to sing. Why does every new band have to have a snarling, pretentious vocalist who brings nothing original to the song? A hook would be even better. Why does every new, cutting edge band have guitar solos that are the most unmelodic notes ever?
2. Murderous Youth
The mix sounds awful here. I can’t hear the vocals, but I can’t tell if it’s the vocal or the mix. I keep waiting for a chorus that would make this song memorable. There is nothing here that catches the ear. Very bland and boring.
3. Tell me Leza
Nice bass hook. Nice guitar. This song has tons of potential. Will Ucherek’s screw it up? I guess not. He’s actually singing instead of “attituding-it.” The guitar sounds a little like early REM and U2. The lead is all The Edge circa 1980. The lyrics should be “Tell me the reason why” instead of “Tell me Leza why” Leza as a name conjures up Leza Gibbons of ET fame and that’s so wrong. This is by far the best song.
4. Serrated Friend
I like the guitar and bass here as well. I don’t like the poser-feel in the vocals because Ucherek is nowhere near good enough to pull off that kind of attitude. He needs to be either creepy in the vocals or seductive. Here he’s just lost. Finally a semblance of a hook with “Ask my serrated friend.”
Interesting lead guitar to open which unfortunately turns into something straight out of every independent track I’ve ever heard – unmelodic and garage band wannabe. I don’t hear anything new or interesting here. Even the analogy seems tired.
6. She Bleeds Pink
I’m sure the drummer is an Iron Maiden fan since he’s aping “Run to the Hills” here which flows into some choppy, galloping guitar riff that’s incredibly derivative. The main riff is nice and they wisely build the song around it although the double time drum distracts. We get more emo falsetto that doesn’t sound all that cutting edge anymore. However, the bass lines are distinctive. The solo sounds ridiculously awful. Is he even in tune?
The guitar player likes Aerosmith. I know this because the main riff here is taken directly from “Train Kept a Rolling” and I doubt he ever heard the original. The lead guitar is lackluster. Nice break in the middle, but there’s not enough here. Kind of a Smithereens vibe going on, but, you know, without a hook.
8. One Beat
I love this opening. Very U2 like. Nice transition to a faster riff. Great musical bed with a just terrible melody and vocal on top. Oh boy, the lead guitar player has found the fuzz box. Yawn.
The guitar player is really trying to put something out there that doesn’t sound like anything else. Unfortunately, what he puts forth is featureless and forgetful. This is a prime example why I hate bands that are supposedly putting out new and different music – no sense of tune, no hook, crappy unmelodic soloing, a vocalist who is unoriginal and lyrics that are unintelligible and weak.
Here’s something original. The bass and guitar sound good here. Nicely structured. I wish the vocals had more strength to them. I absolutely love the instrumental break in the middle. Is that soloing that compliments the rest of the song?
There’s potential there, but overall it’s a frentic, hit and mostly miss collection of loud songs emphasizing their complete lack of song structure and hooks and their lead singer’s ability to sound like every British singer that’s come down the pike in the last few years. “Tell Me Leza” and “Conquistador” are the only stand-outs.