Pretend You’re Alive

The Militia Group

ttention all Sunny Day Real Estate fans! Have you been feeling lost and afraid since the release of 2000’s The Rising Tide? Have you been trying desperately to fill that big Jeremy Enigk-shaped hole in your life? Well, you may have a way to do just that in the coming years with Lovedrug, but I’m afraid now is a little too early.

Right now, this may be your maturing younger sister’s new favorite record. Much like Coldplay, and recently Death Cab For Cutie, Lovedrug is the type of band that can replace N*SYNC posters. The cover art immediately catches your eye, sporting the band’s embossed name enclosed in a weaving golden border, hovering over an ambiguous ghost figure, all enveloped in a white translucent tissue paper, creating a soft-focus Glamour Shot of an album. It looks like something really important. It looks like Robert Smith’s wedding invitations.

Lovedrug’s emotional-but-angrier-than-emo debut release is full of thumping, coming-to-get-you drumming, uplifting, sweeping choruses, and songs with names like “Angels with Enemies.” They’re a little more radio-friendly than Sunny Day Real Estate, but the Christian-themed lyrics are still there. Don’t fret. Lead singer Michael Shepard never actually mentions God or Jesus, leaving the argument open that he’s just talking about a person. So your secular friends can be invited to the Lovedrug party as well!

But it all starts off with a pounding drum and bass, followed with lots of cymbal crashing and a soaring-above-the-clouds guitar lick. In fact, most songs sound that way. One of the great (or terrible) things about Lovedrug is the consistency of the material. If you like this opening track, you’ll love the rest of the album. Aside from some Chris Martin-esque pianos, Pretend You’re Alive doesn’t stray too far from its base.

“Blackout” tells the story of some sort of domestic-abuse superhero who prowls the streets, hailing cabs of course, and tells people in a Danny Tanner type of way, that, yes, “we all blackout”. It’s never really clear what the song is really telling us, who the good guy is or if one even exists. I guess you’ll just have to make a personal interpretation and apply it to your life in your own special way, which, so I’ve heard, is a good way to write lyrics.

It’s “The Monster” that seems to be where Lovedrug really wanted to shine. Or , at least, to create music that soundtracks the liner notes’ ghostly graphics. I can picture them gathering all their inspirations and staying up all night to create Lovedrug’s own “Fascination Street”. But, it ends up being very forgettable. Those little ghost graphics are pretty scary though, kind of like the demons in Ghost that came to drag Willie Lopez to the shadowy depths of hell. “You’re dead, Willie.”

“Candy”, instead, is the album’s peak, incorporating everything that makes them Lovedrug into one song: the thumping drums, the soaring guitar licks, the pianos, and the harmonized vocals. It should have ended the album, but instead we have to sit through the seven-minute “It Won’t Last” (which isn’t a bad song, thanks to the haunting way Shepard sings, “This is the plan / Take your life / Back in your hands.”) and the short-but-sweet solo piano-driven “Paper Scars”.

Pretend You’re Alive shows that Lovedrug is a talented band and that they are destined for great things. Maybe. Probably. Most likely. We’ll see. It’s going to take a few more albums so see what happens. For now, leave it to your maturing younger sister.

Reviewed by: Nick Mims

Reviewed on: 2005-01-03

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