Today’s album, Every Time I Die’s Ex Lives, made my top 12 albums of 2012 list, coming in at a cool number 5.
Here in its entirety is what I wrote about the album last December, and my new thoughts afterward:
During my strange post-high school days when I was still wearing eye liner (stupid) and wore those stupid cadet hats (stupid) and bandanas (stupid) and Converse (not as stupid) and a lot of black t-shirts all the time (stupid) and dyeing my hair black (stupid) and wearing a lip ring (stupid) and overall looking real dumb. I don’t know where that sentence was going, but in that time frame (which lasted far too long) I went and saw Every Time I Die in Ybor City at what was then The Masquerade. It wouldn’t be long before the venue was shut down because someone was legitimately stabbed there. I’m not sure if this was technically the reason for it closing, but if it was, it was a good one. Sketch place at the time, but consistently had banger shows.
Anyway, The Chariot opened for them. That was a killer tour. High on Fire and The Red Chord also opened and I about punctured my own eardrums. They were miserable. I can understand why people are into it, but the person I was then definitely was not. That night though, I saw that The Chariot and Every Time I Die were different: special, not fly-by-night projects.
The ETID discography is chock full of hits for the kids. Ex Lives somehow manages to take a step away to be more reflective – even downright thoughtful – both lyrically and musically. The first track “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space” opens with Keith Buckley frantically screaming, “I want to be dead with my friends.” It’s not a suicide note so much as an ode to his band and tourmates.
On “Holy Book of Dilemma” and “Revival Mode,” Buckley is again critical of mass religion, questioning divinity. Lyrics have always been a strong suit for ETID, and Ex Lives is no exception.
Where Ex Lives excels most though, is in its surprises. Two of the first three tracks are sub-two minutes long, punching listeners straight in the teeth and recalling several of their previous short tracks “The Marvelous Slut” (New Junk Aesthetic, 2011) and “She’s My Rushmore” (Hot Damn!, 2003).
Meanwhile, “I Suck (Blood)” has possibly the most enjoyable section of metalcore I’ve ever heard just over a minute into the track, and then takes it over the top with a fantastic breakdown to close. Bang tune numero uno, I’m totally into it.
And for what it’s worth, if any guitar companies out there ever read this, could you make a double neck guitar with one of the necks being a banjo? “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow” is just BEGGING for it.
On a scale of Matt Pike never wearing a shirt while playing shows (ugh) to the time in the early 2000s when I shopped Keith Buckley back into color on a black and white picture from Hellfest or some other big metal fest and put “I’ll meet you overboard” in some strange font at the top, I give Ex Lives a reeeal solid secret Buffalo sauce recipe.
Couple years ago I saw Every Time I Die open for GWAR. Not joking when I say this, but it was at the most bizarre venue I’ve ever been to. Imagine an 80s movie pool party scene, what with the fog rising from the pool, eventually hooligans throwing in their fully-clothed friends.
Now imagine that the backyard where that pool is located is the courtyard of a shut-down motel that now functions as part tiki bar & part restaurant, then put a sizable outdoor stage set-up and invite one of metal’s most bizarre cornerstone bands.
That’s pretty much what I walked into at the end of 2011. The venue was called Green Iguana Stadium, which refers to the restaurant (Green Iguana, a disgusting joint whose location nearest to me was recently shut down due to live rodents) and the location (Stadium, because it’s quite near Raymond James Stadium, home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Ironically, the venue was shut down not long after this show, and the space is currently a Honda dealership. So, ya know, circle of life and such.
Every Time I Die was opening for metal’s Gallagher equivalent, and played “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” during the set. The song, which opens Ex Lives, is one of the best in the entire ETID catalogue, with some of the most vicious vocals yet from singer Keith Buckley. To the uninformed, the first line “I want to be dead with my friends” sounds like the ramblings of a suicide note.
But to know Buckley’s writing is to be something of an ETIDiot. And ETIDiots know there’d be nothing better than to be surrounded by their closest fellow misfits. As a former English teacher, Buckley uses his membership as singer of the band as a vehicle for a variety of learned narratives.
In so many words, his lyrics have come a long way since Last Night in Town. On Ex Lives, he skewers religion (“Holy Book of Dilemma,” “Typical Miracle,” “Revival Mode,” “Indian Giver”), even breaking out into a mostly unheard singing voice on the latter track. Elsewhere, Buckley writes about the highs and lows of the partying on the road lifestyle (“Underwater Bimbos,” “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow”).
For what it’s worth, Buckley is also an accomplished short story writer. Check out some of the rest of his work on his website.
It’s been more than 8 months since I first wrote about this album, and where it stands in the ETID discography still remains to be seen. It’s markedly different from the rest of their work, and not just in the sense that it could be their final album. There were moments on Gutter Phenomenon and The Big Dirty that sounded more like label pressure than band intent. None of that “Sell more albums” burden is evident on Ex Lives. That statement is coming from someone who has followed the group for 11+ years now. This record sounds like the group at their best, through and through.
Earlier this year, the band played the Orpheum here in Tampa, and banged out an 18 song set chock full of all the hits. I can say without a doubt in my mind that it was the best punk rock show I’ve ever been to because of the “dream come true” set list.
As a group that’s been around for more than a decade now, with 6 full-length releases, more than a dozen music videos, and a handful of DVDs, one can only wonder what’s left in the tank for the Buffalo-based quintet.
If they’re playing anywhere near you anytime soon, make it a point to go see Every Time I Die. You won’t regret it.
Also, for what it’s worth, the image used for this album’s cover art is real, and not Photoshopped. A fan photographed at a protest was wearing the band’s shirt while involved in the violent confrontation depicted. Neat.
From Ex Lives, this is “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space” –
Standout tracks: “Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space,” “I Suck (Blood),” and “Partying is Such Sweet Sorrow”
Weakest track: “A Wild, Shameless Plain”
The low road: Has no exits.
RIYL: Hardcore punk, metalcore. Weird Twitter (@deathoftheparty).