Album Title: Secret Samadhi
Running Time: 53m 27s
Track listing: 1 Rattlesnake; 2 Lakini’s Juice; 3 Graze; 4 Century; 5 Ghost; 6 Unsheathed; 7 Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe; 8 Turn My Head; 9 Heropsychodreamer; 10 Freaks; 11 Merica; 12 Gas Hed Gone West
Live were kept busy by the success of “Throwing Copper” in the mid-ninties, but as with their leap from “Mental Jewelry” to that album, they made another change in direction when recording “Secret Samadhi”. The line-up was the same (odd for a rock band in 90s America – eg Faith No More, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Guns N Roses), but creatively they took slight detours, aiming to bring their audience with them on the journey rather than radically attempt to attract a new one.
If you enjoyed the guitars that permeated “Throwing Copper” then you’ll appreciate that the wall-to-wall sound is re-created here. But things are a little slower in tempo. Take opener ‘Rattlesnake’, a guitar-driven, hook-laden, mid-tempo rocker about a ‘crazy, mixed up town’. Patrick Dahlheimer’s bass really stands out here but musically it’s an all round top effort. The only problem are with the second-grade lyrics: ‘is it money, is it fame/or where they always this lame’ and easy-rhyming like ‘let’s go hang out in a church/we’ll go find Lurch’.
‘Lakini’s Juice’ unmistakable riff makes this one of the album’s stand-out tracks. This is nothing like ‘I Alone’, ‘Waitress’ or ‘All Over You’. It’s a slowed-down, beefed-up slab of power-rock, complete with cryptic lyrics, killer chorus and befitting string section. You’d never confuse it with any other Live song, whether you like the track or not. Similarly ‘Freaks’, a strange tale about people who behave a little differently (‘if the mother goes to bed with you/will you run and tell Geraldo’), is a gradually-building tune that erupts during the chorus. Like ‘Lakini’s Juice’, it’s very distinct and works well.
‘Graze’ is the kind of tune that the new Metallica might have liked to have done. ‘We came to the earth to graze/everyone’s digging in/now there’s no time to live’, Ed bemoans during the unforgettable chorus. Again it’s a slow number that really pulls you in, no more so than when Ed goes falsetto with the word ‘live’. A superb track.
Three years before the millenium, and Live were already throwing out tales of devestation in ‘Century’. ‘Everybodys anxious/for the coming of the crisis/the collapse of the justice’ – a slightly exaggerated telling of what it was actually like but at that time he only had sci-fi movies and books to go by. Lyrically, they have lost the run of themselves a little with ‘I can smell your armpits’ which is not a very pleasant image.
‘Ghost’ mirrors the Adam and Eve story of temptation – ‘boy loses a rib in New Orleans/he can’t help eyein’ up the whores’ – and ‘Unsheathed’ is another serene tune that goes off in an angry musical and lyrical storm during the chorus of ‘Free love is a knife through the jugular vein, son’.
We finally tone things down during what is probably Live’s most tender number, ‘Turn My Head’, a very likable effort. But we’re grunging-up again with ‘Heropsychodreamer’, a tune very similar to what Pearl Jam were doing on “Yield” at the same time. The lyrics are very odd though, and it’s hard to know what Ed is referring to. ‘the subconcious keeps me here/i fell in love with a balladeer/i saw your tongue, it licked my heart/they call you queer’.
I finally know where Aerosmith got the riff for ‘Jaded’! Kind of. It’s called ‘Merica’, and it’s got a catchy chorus but more unfathomable lyrics: ‘looks like America’s dropped her load/she tried to call me on the telephone/”everything is fine now the baby’s here”/she’ll have to handle this on her own’.
‘Insomnia and the Hole in the Universe’ sounds very similar to ‘Rattlesnake’ and I’m a bit surprised it was included because of the likeness to the opening track. It’s a good number though, musically powerful and lyrically obtuse. The album finishes very strongly with ‘Gas Hed Goes West’, a beautifully crafted country-rock number.
It’s difficult to discuss the songs in too much depth because they are so hard to understand. The lyrical are, in all honesty, completely obscure and difficult to comprehend within context. I know there were complaints of how literally the band wrote on “Mental Jewelry”, but I feel that they took it a step too far on this record. Luckily the music is powerful and deliberate and stands up on it’s own two feet. “Secret Samadhi” might not have obtained the success that “Throwing Copper” did but it’s not far off being that albums equal. Very underrated.