Review Summary: it feels electric when we sing
When I reviewed Anthony Green's incredible solo album Boom. Done.
this year, I wrote that the album found him "asserting his will to live and keep creating music" in spite of the darkness explored in the lyrics. "It's not about my relationship with drugs or people, it's about my relationship with myself", I quoted Green by way of illustrating the inward-facing nature of the project. I say this in order to contextualise Past Lives
: the album doesn't feature Green's name on the cover, instead being credited to a supergroup which he was reportedly the last to join, yet there is connective tissue linking it to Boom. Done.
which enriches and deepens both albums.
Let's start with the obvious: Past Lives
opener "2022" is a reworked song from Boom. Done.
, mysteriously taken off streaming a few weeks after release for reasons which are now obvious. The original cut was stark and desolate, just Green and a guitar with barely a whisper of brass in the background, whereas the new version doesn't waste a second announcing the energy levels L.S. Dunes will be operating at. The enviable rhythm section from genre titans Thursday kick things off with an absolutely filthy bass tone from Tim Payne and strong anchoring from Tucker Rule, while Coheed and Cambria's Travis Stever and My Chemical Romance's Frank Iero trade elegantly intertwined guitar parts that make you wonder how they've never shared a track before now. Green's vocal over the top is more akin to a snarl, barking out heartwrenching lines about a suicide attempt like he's trying to exorcise his demons by sheer force of performance. The lyrics and melody remain unchanged, but we couldn't be further afield from the original "2022", which is Past Lives
all over - familiar styles and modes of performance, given new life by the nature of their collaboration.
From there the album continues largely straightforward but nonetheless absolutely thrilling. Politically-minded cuts "Grifter" and "Bombsquad" pick up the territory where Circa Survive's tortured "Impostor Syndrome" left off, lamenting the January 6 Capitol riots and our general dystopian-adjacent hellscape of a daily life. The helplessness and fury of these songs is somewhat balanced by the more personal moments of "2022" and "Sleep Cult", but there's no doubt Past Lives
is a grim and cynical album, five seasoned musicians showing their teeth without smiling at a world that seems to get darker every day. Cuts like "Grey Veins" lean towards an oldschool rock 'n' roll aesthetic that is likely credit to Stever and Iero, while furious post-hardcore ragers "Like Forever" and "Permanent Rebellion" will likely satiate those still mourning the gap Circa Survive left behind when they announced their hiatus. It's the slowburning duo of "Blender" and the title track that will likely stick in the craws of those skeptical of the whole supergroup thing; they're the perfect middle ground between all the present musicians and their respective styles, true collaborative songs which sit rightly in the middle of the album as an axis around which the rest can revolve.
A production job from genre mainstay Will Yip thankfully finds him back in a sweet spot, with a dry and smooth mix which balances Green's powerhouse performance with the work from all the instrumentalists evenly. Past Lives
isn't exactly full of surprises, but it doesn't need to be to succeed as a mission statement for a new band who seem to be around to stay, if rumours of new material brewing are any indication. Every member of L.S. Dunes is in their element even after respective years of being legends in the genre, and if a future project can drill down on the energy found in "Blender" or the bizarre but deeply affecting "Sleep Cult", they may still have some of their best work ahead.