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Living With Lions just dropped their third LP, Holy Shit, and this time they managed to kick-up more controversy than Slayer. Yes, Holy Shit is possibly the first pop-punk album to piss off conservative Christians enough that it has actually been pulled from the shelves for its artwork, which features, ahem, a piece of shit dressed up as Jesus. But never fear, the album will be re-released, minus the grant from the Canadian government and the accompanying stickers.
Now, onto the musical content. If you heard Living With Lions sophomore effort, Make Your Mark, you will know exactly what to expect. Melodic riffery, mid-paced yet hard hitting drums and catchy, low-register vocals. Stu Ross is on the mic for the new album, having left technical hardcore act Misery Signals to replace former Lions vocalist Matt Postal. Ross and Postal have remarkably similiar voices, both sitting in the low register and having a gruff edge, yet with a strong pop-sensibility. I’ve always liked Living With Lions vocal parts, they are catchy and memorable, yet are atypical for the pop-punk scene, which is normally known for a high, nasal vocal delivery. Ross no doubt delivers on this release, along with new bassist Bill Crook, who again, doesn’t vary greatly from the man he replaced, Shayne Lundberg.
It is somewhat hard to compare Living With Lions to other bands, they are not exactly breaking down walls in terms of genre, but their particular take on pop-punk is somewhat left of field and they definitely have their own sound. That said, I’d wager fans of bands such as The Wonder Years and Polar Bear Club would find something to enjoy on this release. Living With Lions manage to make a relatively seamless cross over between hardcore and pop-punk, letting hardcore influences shine through, yet all the while staying quite accessible and essentially releasing an album full of guitar-heavy pop tunes. Don’t expect keyboards and growled vocals mixed in with an out-of-place overly auto-tuned chorus here, Living With Lions manage to blend their influences a little more cohesively than many other bands on the current scene.
The guitar parts courtesy of Chase and Landon are simple and hit like a sledgehammer. Almost every song opens with an instantly recognisable riff or a melody which will have you humming along in no time. This is the type of record that would be a perfect soundtrack to having a few beers with mates in the backyard, or spinning on the way to a venue, the whole thing is just catchy and in-your-face, and even the sadder songs about break-ups are full of energy. One such song is the up-tempo Regret Song, where Ross strains in the higher end of his range to deliver lines like “This is the last song I’ll write about you, ‘cause you’re not worth the ink or time.” The lyrics may sound cliché but I challenge anyone to listen to this shit and not sing along.
For all its strengths, Holy Shit lacks variety. You get song after song at similar tempos, using the same structures and hooks. All of them absolutely rock, but seeing as you get a very comparable serving of songs on their previous LP, you could probably listen to the albums back to back on iTunes and not even notice when the albums change over. Holy Shit has slightly better production than Make Your Mark, but it’s a struggle to come up with many other factors that differentiate the releases. Clocking in at just over 35 minutes, Holy Shit is also somewhat a brief affair, the album seems to be over just as you are sinking into it. Don’t let these criticisms sway you too much though, Living With Lions have a rock solid release on their hands with this album, and if they could broaden their artistic scope on their next release they would be well on their way to being one of the best bands in their genre.
Canadian pop-punk act Living With Lions are back with their brand of melodic, catchy punk-infused rock, and Holy Shit doesn’t disappoint. Big hooks, melodic, biting guitars and catchy, sing along chorus after chorus are all here in typical Lions style. While Living With Lions have forged their own recognisable and unique sound, there is little to no artist growth to be found here, the boys sound much the same as they did in 2008, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
2. Regret Song
3. In Your Light
4. Honesty, Honestly
5. Whatever You Want
6. Maple Drive Is Still Alive
7. Wake Up
8. Matthew’s Anthem
9. Rough Around the Edges
10. When We Were Young