Having survived the alternative rock hysteria of the '90s with their integrity intact, Live has good reason to celebrate their triumphant 10th anniversary. But instead of uncorking champagne and resting on their laurels, the Pennsylvania foursome is releasing a vibrant new album that retains the power of previous recordings while paving a confident path to the future.
Modestly titled V, the new album underscores Live's penchant for composing anthemic melodies and thought-provoking lyrics. Tuneful rockers like "Flow," "Nobody Knows" and "Deep Enough" are juxtaposed by more experimental tracks like "Simple Creed," which features a guest appearance by techno icon Tricky.
According to vocalist Ed Kowalcyzk, most of the songs featured on V were conceived during the band's last tour. "The Distance to Here world tour was just an unbelievable experience, " the singer says. "That record is just so uplifting, and seeing the looks on people's faces all over the world for 15 months was enough to inspire me for decades. I was writing music in hotel rooms, tour buses, bathrooms - everywhere. And constantly."
Described by Billboard as "the most vital thinking man's hard-rock band," Live transcended the primitive constraints of rock & roll on albums like Throwing Copper, Secret Samadhi and The Distance To Here. The band's yin-yang fusion of guitar thunder and mystical lyricism resulted in tense, prickly hit singles like "Selling the Drama," "Lakini's Juice" and "The Dolphins Cry." To date, Live has sold over 17 million albums worldwide - an impressive feat for a workingman's band from the Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Kowalczyk and his comrades - guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and drummer Chad Gracey - surfaced in 1991 with their debut album Mental Jewelry. But the foursome was thrust into the global limelight in 1994 with the release of their sophomore disc Throwing Copper. The album was a multi-platinum smash that yielded no less than four modern rock hit singles, including "Selling the Drama," "I Alone," "All Over You" and "Lightning Crashes."
Fueled by tuneful rock melodies and compassionate lyrics, subsequent albums like Secret Samadhi and The Distance To Here achieved platinum status and critical acclaim. In a 1999 profile, Esquire magazine called Live, "a refreshing alternative to the brainless, angst-filled rock on modern radio." Those sentiments were echoed in Maximum Guitar magazine, which wrote: "[Live seems] to have everything: R.E.M.'s folksy communal spirit, Pearl Jam's raucous intensity, and most controversially, U2's reputation as a 'spiritual' band."
In his uniquely modest manner, Kowalcyzk described Live's musical philosophy in a 1997 interview. "We're not up on stage telling people what to think or trying to convert anybody," the singer said. "It's just throwing things out and having faith that, at some level, people will put it all together, and at the very least have an experience that's unique."