Listen Up: Wednesday July 23, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Live

Birds of Pray (MCA)

By Beth Henary

Live’s last album, V, left even champions of the band feeling as though it had gone overboard in its adolescent soul-searching. Too much anger and too many progressive influences had steered the quartet away from its guys-with-some-guitars-and-drums magic rock formula. Making matters worse, the release was unfortunately timed: Sept. 18, 2001, was the wrong time to be crowing, “In the West we think we’re the best / We’ve shown the whole wide world that money is all we care for.”

V proved irrelevant, but Birds of Pray, the group’s sixth album, might have some staying power. This time, the band doesn’t provoke souls but ministers to them. In this case, Live’s spiritual clout is an asset, not a hindrance.

Lead vocalist/songwriter and new dad Ed Kowalczyk works his latest obsession into Birds of Pray’s first single, “Heaven,” and the anti-war “What Are We Fighting For?”: “The world got smaller but the bombs got bigger / Holocaust on a hairpin trigger / Ain’t no game so forget the score / What are we fighting for? / What are we fighting for? / What will I tell my daughter? / What will you tell your son?”

On first listen, the lyrics — especially those on “Everytime I See Your Face” — and the socially responsible, creed-like ambitions contained therein, seem fated for the cliché graveyard for already-done songs. The band saves itself, though, mixing bits of new thoughts with the old.

Even if less than abundant on this album, Live’s classic penchant for narrative does appear, namely in “River Town,” in which the group from York, Pa., puts the Middle-American ethos of the album on parade.

What’s fresh is the band’s decision — at least for now — to abandon the awkward temptation to be overly melancholy and weird. The boys who debuted 16 years ago at their middle-school talent show have grown up to give us some untroubled tunes that balm both artist and listener. In the words of one addictive ballad, Birds of Pray is a “Sweet Release.”


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