We kregen een album binnen dat te leuk is om ‘m niet te vermelden. ‘Popular Music’ is het debuutalbum van de Britse punk-rockband LIFE en dendert door je speakers. Muziek vol energie waar je vrolijk van wordt en waarvan je gaat springen, de sound doet bij vlagen aan Green Day denken.
Het album werd geproduceerd door Ian Downling (The Kooks, Bombay Bicycle Club, Adele) en de biografie die we aangeleverd kregen is zó volledig en lang dat ik ‘m niet eens ga vertalen of bewerken. Bij deze dus de originele versie:
LIFE biography by Jamie Milton
There’s a distinct spirit to ‘Popular Music’, the debut album from Hull four-piece LIFE. It’s the sound of a band doing everything on their terms – not fully out of choice, more by default. These four are self-starting underdogs forming foundations in a discarded city. Hull might be the 2017 UK City of Culture, but it remains a four-hour drive from London – A&R execs prefer to board flights to LA than take the ‘grim’ trip up north. LIFE knew very quickly after forming in 2013 that they had to build from the ground up. And that’s exactly what they’ve done, as ‘In Your Hands’, the record’s urgent, opening track, so blatantly declares.
By mirroring their own experience of being a resolute, thick-skinned DIY band, LIFE have created a manifesto for the disillusioned, the widely ignored and those who might think they’ve no means of having a creative outlet.
‘Popular Music’ has three core characteristics. First there’s the anxiety that goes hand-in-hand with being a grassroots band, where every purchase is a dent in your income and where every month-long tour might mean having to quit your day job. The second characteristic is a sense of frustration – at globe-changing political events, right through to the day-to-day of being in a band hundreds of miles from the capital and shunned by the industry’s merry-go-round. The third characteristic, and the one that truly defines this debut, is one of action. These songs are proactive, as well as provocative. They command attention through sheer will alone. Instead of acknowledging an existence on the outskirts, LIFE put their prospects in their own hands.
Mez Green (vocals), his kid brother Mick Sanders (guitars), Loz Etheridge (bass) and Stewart Baxter (drums) knew they needed to stand up to be counted. They’ve been misunderstood (“People think, ‘Ah, they’re from Hull. They’re probably a lad rock band,’” quips Mez), and they’ve seen wealthy bands with half their talent take the fast lane to success. “It fuels you though, doesn’t it?” asserts Mick. “That makes you wanna be better. We’ve got to grab hold of everything and make sure we do it how we wanna do it. Otherwise you get washed to the side. It helps you dig in and want to control everything.”
As well as expressing their own hardships past and present, ‘Popular Music’ also relates the everyday lives of marginalised people. Outside of the band, Mez and Stew work at The Warren, a youth centre providing a creative outlet for those in the local community. “You get attached to a lot of the young people who’ve really fallen through the cracks of society, often through no fault of their own,” Mez states. “You just feel a necessity to do something, especially in a northern outpost like Hull.”
That’s the crux of ‘Popular Music’ – a desire to do something, to not just sit back in acceptance. ‘Go Go Go’ is a first foot forward rallying cry. ‘Electricity’ thrashes with the force of someone dropped into the dead end of society, with no apparent escape route. And album finale ‘Euromillions’ was penned the day after last year’s Brexit vote. It’s the sound of purpose and action, rather than a wallowing despair expressed through social media. The record’s title might read like a slam on manufactured pop,
but it’s just the opposite. Mick points to an anti-snobbery rhetoric, saying: “It’s about finishing a shit job, going to a club or a pub or your home, and whatever music lifts you out of the rut is your cure.”
For a long time LIFE managed themselves and booked their own shows. They picked up the support of BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq and the DJ became an early champion for ‘Popular Music’’s title-track (calling it a “doozy”). He has been one of their biggest plaudits ever since. They’ve managed to turn heads every step of the way. After supporting Slaves for a one-off show in Hull, Laurie Vincent and Isaac Holman asked LIFE to join them for an entire European tour, kicking off previously booked supports just to make room. Similarly, ex-Kaiser Chiefs member Nick Hodgson knew the brothers through their old band The Neat, and would lend advice where he saw fit. “When you’ve got people who have been there telling you you’re doing something worthwhile, that’s a big thing,” says Mick.
With each dose of validation, LIFE knew they were onto something. By the tail end of 2016, they had enough material for a debut full-length, building on the back of two sold out singles. Recording with Ian Dowling at The Fish Factory in London, they combined a social consciousness with playful lyricism, inspired by Beat Generation authors like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. More than anything, they managed to capture the essence of this band – counting the pennies to get by, never being able to turn down a gig – as well as reflecting on one of the most ground-shaking political years in history. Without being pegged as a political band, it’s a status that’s impossible to shake off. “You’ve got to talk about politics. At the end of the day, that’s what’s informing the music,” asserts Mez. “When you’re playing gigs in places like Scunthorpe, you can see what used to be the quiet majority and they feel like they don’t have a voice in this time that we’re living in. It’s a scary world and it’s going to inform a lot of art across the board.” For Mez and Stew especially, they witness these things on a daily basis, instead of forming their opinions from a distance. “Although we’re not a young band, because of our life experience and line of work, it’s informed the writing a lot more than say the work of a young band from a wealthy background who are looking in from the outside. Not to sound superior, but we live here, and the record is a direct result of what we see every day.”
LIFE’s style of social commentary is reflected in a new wave of guitar bands who have something to say, instead of relying on nostalgia or sticking to a stagnant indie template. South London is sporting a pack of acts like Shame, HMLTD and Goat Girl who seem intent on shifting the norm. “It feels like there’s a growing movement of grassroots bands again. It’s like, ‘Fuck it, we don’t care. We’re gonna release our music anyway,’” says Mez. Guitar music, for all its pitfalls and previous sense of indirection, is beginning to feel important again.
For all the tension that threads through ‘Popular Music’, there’s something truly empowering about this record. Strung-out centrepiece ‘Beautifully Skint’ embodies this best, finding resolve in an unrelenting sense of doom. At times, it’s reminiscent of Joy Division’s dystopia-channeling best, discovering beauty in the cracks that form through darkness. Most would trade hardship for the easy route without a moment’s hesitation, but without hardship, LIFE wouldn’t be who they are and they wouldn’t
have made this record. “It’s just been a learning curve, the whole process,” says Mez. “It doesn’t shackle your art, either. We’re not afraid to be bold and say something. At the end of the day, what’s the point in waiting around?”