Album Title: V
Running Time: 52m 38s
Track listing: 1 Intro; 2 Simple Creed; 3 Deep Enough; 4 Like a Soldier; 5 People Like You; 6 Transmit Your Love; 7 Forever May Not Be Long Enough; 8 Call Me a Fool; 9 Flow; 10 The Ride; 11 Nobody Knows; 12 Ok?; 13 Overcome; 14 Hero of Love; 15 Deep Enough (remix)
Live showed that they were ready to mix their classic power chord-based sound with a more modern edge on parts of 1999’s “The Distance to Here”. They went for the jugular two years later when the edgy-looking “V” hit the stands. The grainy, alternative cover, featuring the band strutting towards the camera seemingly looking for a punch up, was the first time they appeared on the front of one of their releases. It was to be a statement of intent, an in-your-face introduction to their fifth album.
Opening with a curious, eastern-sounding instrumental simply called ‘Intro’, the album launches into ‘A Simple Creed’, a song that feeds trademark guitar licks with a throbbing electronic sound and a short mid-section rap from key-collaborator, Tricky. Ed Kowalczyks booming vocals are unmistakable – from the quick-fire verbal assault of lines like ‘angry at who? me? you better back up fool/i bet you took a gun to school too’, to the almost angelic bridge and chorus (‘cos we need each other/we gotta love each other’).
‘Deep Enough’ is a crunching, hammed-up piece of metal about a former lover (‘we hit the room, me and my crew/and it was cool until we met you), suffering jealousy (‘there you were…with a man that danced like he was born/in ’49, but lost his groove back when jesus died’), and wondering where it all went wrong (‘what did i do? what did i say?/that gave you away’).
Like waiting for an inevitable punch in the mid-riff, you know what’s coming with ‘Like a Soldier’ – the slow-verse, fast building-bridge, throbbing chorus formula that Live have used so effectively in the past. The mid-song rap is questionable and the anthemic chorus features awkward lyrics, but overall it’s a likeable tune.
Interesting, to say the least, is the raucous and angry ‘People Like You’. A self-appreciating lament if such a thing exists, Ed may be examining the reaction to this very album. ‘In a dream I had/I was on a stage with Queen’, spelling out his own desire to be successful and popular, but acknowledging the inevitable backlash that it brings (‘where the boys in Live?/they’re p*ssing in the mainstream’) and welcoming it (‘open up your cage/focus all your rage/the world needs people like you’).
More restrained although slightly peculiar, is ‘Transmit Your Love’. Ed talks up his band: ‘with Live, it’s game seven every night’, and gives us hilarious lines like: ‘you should of come to the show/but you didn’t, now you’re wishin’ that you had/had to go to jimmy buffet with your dad’. The mid-tempo, pleasant verse is only slightly tarnished by the anti-climax that is the turgid chorus (‘transmit your love to me and/silently make me whole again’).
Following hot on it’s heels though is one of “V”‘s MVP. Featured in the movie “The Mummy Returns”, ‘Forever May Not Be Long Enough’ also has an Eastern-feel and a mysterious and slightly wistful musical and vocal theme. ‘This world is never enough and I’m not givin’ up/my faith in love is like blood, i’d spill it freely for some’, Ed sings rather eerily. The logical crescendo comes with the uncompromising line of ‘Don’t stop to look at the clock, forever won’t be long enough’. Brilliant stuff.
More gentle is ‘Call Me a Fool’, a piano-backed ballad and under-stated lyrical and vocal effort that works particularly well during the tight but appealing chorus. ‘Overcome’, another piano-based track and contender for outstanding cut on the record, is melodic, haunting and genuinely emotional. If Robbie Williams were to release this it would be number one for months. ‘I am overcome/holy water in my lungs’, Ed sings with the sort of honesty that only he can.
While we are on the subject of ballads, you got to say that ‘Nobody Knows’ works nicely too. It’s a simple theme: ‘Nobody really knows what I would do for you/Nobody really knows how much I love you’. But it’s easy to welcome the simplistic rhythm of ‘Nobody Knows’, a simplicity that is often lost on “V” among the over-sampled loops and electronica.
‘The Ride’ is a successful, Indian-tinged attack on western-culture. ‘In the East, they can meditate…I think I’ll go there someday’, Ed tells us, before explaining how (‘You don’t need money to fly away…you don’t need a car to truly ride’). He expresses his distaste for the loss of spirituality (‘In the west we think we’re the best/we’ve shown the whole wide world/that money is all we care for now’) and tells us that ‘someday the scientists will see/there’s no such thing as gravity/they’ll all just light a candle/take a seat for the ride’. Clever and hard-hitting.
While ‘Flow’ starts off so well with it’s a pleasant country-acoustic verse, it loses it’s way when the electrics kick in and the painful chorus undoes all the good work. ‘OK?’ is far removed from Live’s previous work, a frenetic rocker full of samples. Although not the best song on the album, it’s ragged style suits the message of ‘Take away my TV/don’t want your fvckin’ recipe/it’s all decay decay decay’.
Album closer, (with the exception of a “hidden” remix of ‘Deep Enough’), is the more familiar Live-sound of ‘Hero of Love’ – tender lyrics (‘I caught a glimpse of heaven last night/to the left of your body/to the right of your mind’), catchy rhythm and Ed’s passionate, semi-falsetto vocals.
While “V” doesn’t always hook consistently, and it is undoubtedly a musical diversion, I’ve got to say that it works extremely well. You do appreciate the classic sound that is apparent on a handful of tracks, but it’s interesting to hear them re-invent themselves in excellent cuts like ‘Forever May Not Be Long Enough’ and ‘A Simple Creed’. There is some weak material here, but with fourteen tracks, hitting skip a couple of times is a small price to pay. While some fans didn’t like it and saw it as an unnecessary experimentation, can you really say that any self-expression is unnecessary? Live continue to dazzle.