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The Living Things 

Ahead of the Lions

Released in 2003, Turn in Your Friends and Neighbors was an embarrassing stab at politically charged scuzz-rock. The EP was so resolutely terrible that it served as a coaster in the college newspaper office for over a year.

The offending band, The Living Things -- think a kind of black-haired, leather-clad version of the Hanson brothers -- was promptly and rightfully banished from its major-label home, the now-defunct Dreamworks Records, only to be briefly resurrected on Geffen before finally landing on Jive that released the group's U.S. debut full-length early this month.

Ahead of the Lions features tracks from a Dreamworks-funded LP that never saw domestic release, Black Skies in Broad Daylight, as well as a few from more recent recording sessions. The album plays like a Living Things greatest hits package, assuming it could bear so bold a label. Mostly, the Living Things settle for other bands' greatest hits, recycling classic rock riffs and Iggy Pop guttural grunts. While a definite improvement over their poisonous introductory EP, Lions' modest gains are hardly worthy of praise, let alone the absurd hyperbole that inevitably attaches to any band that suffers a Wilco-esque major-label wipeout. (SPIN critic Brian Raftery on Black Skies: "one of the most ferocious straight-ahead rock albums since Nevermind.") No doubt much of the band's appeal also lies in Lillian Berlin's leftist screed -- the none-too-subtle Bush-bashing on songs like "Bombs Below" and the album's first single, "Bom Bom Bom." But this is one case where substance can't quite excuse sloppy execution.

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