Look, let’s get it out of the way now before we get this review going. I know Lit, you know Lit, we all know Lit. We all know Lit for that song, you know the one I’m talking about. Released in March of 1999, climbed its way up the charts, invaded mainstream radio, sound tracked your High School years or if your British like myself sound tracked your pop punk infused skater days when American Pie was the coolest film ever and jeans were baggy. Then of course it stayed with you through to house parties and booze fuelled summertime barbecues, with rousing choruses from the gathered crowd of that opening riff. Oh, come on. You know the one. This one…
Now contrary to popular belief there’s a lot more to Lit than My Own Worst Enemy, and this album is going to go more some way to prove that, if the numerous other hit singles they had that lit (ahem) up the charts didn’t do that the first time round. From an outsider’s perspective it might seem like all has been quiet in the Lit camp since 2004’s self titled fourth album and the best of released at the same time. However, things couldn’t be further from the truth on a personal level and not often is an album title as apt as this one is in encapsulating where an act has been, and what has informed them, whilst they’ve been away.
I could go on about how the band hit rock bottom, not on an industry or financial level but on an emotional and personal level through the tragedies that have been bestowed upon them during that time. I won’t. The band have done it themselves, and they speak more earnestly and effectively than my hyperbole would express.
So, after all that, where do we find the band musically? We find them looking back to the pop rock hooks of old, but this time with wisened eyes. There’s a more mature feel to this record and a definite air of melancholy underpinning even the most anthemic tracks on display here. You could look to it as a similar evolution as the one blink 182 underwent to release their self-titled album. However whilst the mood has matured, through the pains of loss, life and the sorrowful nostalgia of getting older, unlike blink’s transition into the twilight years, the songwriting here doesn’t seem to have matured as much as the mood has.
Now this isn’t to say that the songwriting on show here is lacklustre or anything of the sort, what it is saying though is that it hasn’t really developed from where they were when they were here before. Sure the riffs are heavier and there’s slower grooves, darker moods and heartfelt atmospheres, but there’s an over-familiarity of the chugged chord progressions and choruses on display.
That aside though there is plenty on offer here for Lit fans and newcomers alike. There’s the knowingly anthemic opener C’mon, with its stadium rock drum and gang chant vocal intro that drops a big rock hook before bringing it down to a suitable tempo for getting those lighters in the air before the chorus encourages you get on someone’s shoulders and wave those hands in the air.
Then there’s those big pop punk riffs and pop rock vocal hooks you know and love but run through this more grown up sound in the shape of You Tonight, Nothing’s Free, You Did It and Right This Time. There’s even a knowing nod to the bands biggest hit, and perhaps own worst enemy, in Same Shit, Different Drink with its subtly similar opening riff, drum groove and vocal style.
Some further strides into the stadium rock arena come on strong with Miss You Gone, The Broken and Partner In Crime. The latter particularly sounding like a channelling of the spirits of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue simultaneously. The album isn’t shy on ballads either with She Don’t Know, Here’s To Us and The Wall ticking that ballad box neatly.
Here’s To Us perhaps being the perfect example of where the band are now, to where they were then and how these songs will be listened to now as opposed to how they were then. Whereas at the tail end of the ‘90s and the start of the ‘00s these were a band that soundtracked those adolescent house parties fuelled by shit beer, teen movies and summertime. This is a band now that whilst still having the riffs and bounce to push a party on, will be listened to at the tail end of that party too. When the sun is setting, or set, that haphazard homemade fire’s still burning but lowly, a few cigarettes dot the air like fire flies, the drinking has settled to casual sips and for the most part everyone’s got an extra layer on, or a blanket, ready for the chill of the night.
That exuberant youth is over, growing up as happened and sure, it’s sad but it’s just as comforting too.