“A Bit More on Live, and What It’s Like to Have to Listen to the Wrong Album”

It’s like rape, or having to tell a little kid he has leukemia. (“Now we won’t be raped / Hey hey / Now we won’t be scarred like that / Hey hey”.) I’d rather listen to Tonic, or the Gin Blossoms, than listen to the wrong album by Live. The Distance to Here sits on my living room table, a copy I just checked out from the library, like a spillage over crayon drawings dashed to the floor, or a deluge of caramel topping with no dessert for it.
It was rough being Live in the late ’90s. Well, artistically, at least. Looking at the blurb for Throwing Copper, I see that it is indeed eight times platinum, hopefully garnering them at least a one bedroom apartment with a garden and a year’s utilities paid, or something… but look at what the nineties devolved, nay, spat like a bratty kid doing some sprinkler dance, into — ska, rock/rap, and… SWING. Swing? Yes, fu**ing swing.
Throw in Eminem and a couple eye-candy divas on MTV dominating the psyches of teenage girls, and this doesn’t leave much room for earnest, trenchant pop/rock. But, this is what Live did. Like many bands, such as Soundgarden, they sort of MATURED into writing great songs after some initial stylistic honing, in this case the impressive but ultimately unmemorable debut album Mental Jewelry, from 1991.
Now, mind you, this is not actually the first musical project for these gents… they are a permutation of what had been since 1984 known as First Aid. Yeah, these guys were old. They’d seen a lot of sh**.
I included “Lightning Crashes” in my “Top 100 Radio Singles of All Time” list, somewhere around #80 I think, and yet it’s funny, because they do inhabit a sovereign sector in my mind, sort of like how when you want a good apple pie the person you’d rather see than anyone in life is your grandmother. BUT LIVE’S NOT LIKE YOUR GRANDMA, DUDE! Oh, really? Then why are they singing about placentas? Then why when I hear them do I feel my arms relaxing and splaying out, and feel a holistic guidance to the point of relaxation, patience and faith, in life?
This is why I listen to music. I like to be able to sit back. I’m a sitter-backer, always have been. I like to feel that there is a holistic way of living which involves actually wielding a certain vision in our human minds, and not just functioning like robots, or forever fighting orangutans. Nothing against orangutans. I love those rascals, I really do. What’s up, orangutans.
So Secret Samadhi is an album that contains basically… no hits, that I know of. I remember that album coming out, and seeing it everywhere, but it definitely had some stiff competition what with the likes of Everclear, Third Eye Blind, Marcy Playground, the Wallflowers, Collective Soul… I mean Live were just kind of THERE. Nobody was going to confuse them with an act that would steal the thunder, or the spotlight. They had zero gimmick about them. At this point, after 15 years of being in a band, after a name change, a major signing and a blockbuster commercial breakthrough of going multi-platinum, they were still doing the same thing they’d always done — “singles” like “Turn My Head,” and more importantly the blistering, fearsome rock stomper “Freaks,” aren’t even like singles so much as they are just an extension of this guy’s, Ed Kowalczyk’s, very heart, his songwriting muse which is like every day doing battle with his own pain, with his own underdog predicament. And Five for Fighting even once said, “I’m not insane / I’m just looking for someone who understands my pain.”
And now today, do we still feel pain? Do we feel anything at all? All I know is that my instincts still thirst for vision, and I want to believe that we’re more than just idiots running around trying to fu** each other, or trying to get rich… I want to know that I will do the right thing, will act with temperance, and maybe even some color, and memorability, in all those miscellaneous situations, those in-between situations which cannot be categorized, and really, what other kinds of situations are there? Live must have disappointed a lot of people with Secret Samadhi, both within the record company and without, by not making a poppier album — and indeed, the stab at radio friendliness with the strings almost ruins “Turn My Head.” But all those flashy flavors of the week that were on radio, whether they were ska, or “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy),” or whatever… where are they now? Only the dullest music serves all occasions. In Live, I find something I can thankfully still, in the world of music, love, respect and fear, all in one — the very definition of being substantial, in fact.

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