Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Live - Secret Samadhi

Radioactive: 1997

Oh my God, I’m actually starting to like Live. Now I feel bad for every lame, clichéd punch-line I’ve ever delivered in their direction. You know how they typically go: “that band that everyone loved but can’t remember any reason why”; or “you know you’re from the ‘90s if you have Throwing Copper among your CDs”; or “oh yeah, Live, they had that big hit December, right? Or was that Push?” (sorry, Canadian joke). Maybe it’s because I never realized they shared so many similarities to national treasures The Tragically Hip, though it’s not like I delved deeply into their discography either. And even when I took on Throwing Copper, it essentially confirmed what I always felt Live was: a solid enough alternative rock band, fully deserving of their success but not one I thought capable of exceeding that commercial peak.

And Secret Samadhi oblitera- no, not quite; forced a reassessment of my initial assumptions, yes let’s go with that. I figured Live’s third album would carry on from Throwing Copper, the band daring not to mess with the sure thing they’d generated for themselves. I’m sure tons of folks figured that too, the record hitting top of the Billboard before being unceremoniously knocked out a week after by the Howard Stern movie soundtrack. Perhaps it couldn’t be helped, their breakout record one of the slowest burners the world of rock had ever seen. Whatever enthusiasm folks had for Live in those glorious mid-‘90s times would have waned as other new hotness emerged. But hey, Secret Samadhi did knock No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom from its long perch atop Canadian charts, so good on that.

Generally speaking, Secret Samadhi is more of the same Live stylee, but evolving just enough for a stronger outing than before. Yes, I feel this record is better than Throwing Copper, delving into ‘post-grunge’ form without getting too slick about it, nicely selling a ‘bar band with a budget’ vibe. Sure, there’s an orchestra backing a couple tracks, and they have plenty studio polish at their disposal, but nothing is overdone or varnished into blandness as so much mega-selling rock of the ‘90s goes. Despite their continued stadium success abroad, I could totally see Live playing live at the local dive bar. No, that’s a good thing! Though I don’t actively seek it out, I’m still a sucker for bluesy, alternative rock, where tales of common folk struggles are told with not a hint of preaching or sanctimonious condemnation. Even with Kowlaczyk interjecting headier concepts of spiritualism and mysticism this time out, Live still remain grounded in how they present themselves. For a chap that will likely never lose his small town sensibility (I keep trying!), this remains most appealing.

While I’m almost certain this ends my forays into Live’s discography, I must admit coming away from both Throwing Copper and Secret Samadhi more appreciative of the band than I ever thought possible. And will someone help out their Wiki pages? Dear God, it’s disgraceful.


ACE TRACKS:
Ghost
Freaks
Insomnia And The Hole In The Universe

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