Lifetime was one of the best punk bands ever. They had an original sound, played with both passion and precision, and had a swagger all their own. They put out two arguably perfect albums: Hello Bastards and Jersey's Best Dancers, then split up. Obviously, it is easier to create a strong reputation through a successful, brief career than a long, mixed career. But Lifetime guitarist Dan Yemin has also founded the incredible Kid Dynamite and Paint It Black, helping to cement Lifetime's legacy. Ten years after their last album, Lifetime has released a new full-length on a vanity label owned by Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz. By releasing a new full-length, this band's legacy is in jeopardy. Will this be a failed return akin to Michael Jordan's run with the Wizards? (The Wentz connection reminds me more of Redskins' owner Dan Snyder's painful resurrection of legendary coach Joe Gibbs.) Are the guys just in it for the cash?
10 / 10
For all of my skepticism, I can't find any faults with this record. Sure, Ari Katz's lyrics aren't as memorable as those of the previous few albums, but they are strong overall. The vocals on the first two tracks have some quite simplistic lyrics: "I hope you're in your car right now / turning this shit up so loud," on "Northbound Breakdown;" "In the airport, in the morning, I know / She's gotta go" on "Monday Morning Airport." Despite the relative inanity of these two choruses, though, they are delivered in such a pleasing manner that I find myself singing along in spite of myself. Dan Yemin's chord patterns are, as always, delightfully original. Ari and Dan are backed up by a still-mind-blowing rhythm section. In a change from their early work, there are no hardcore tracks or big sing-alongs. That may be a positive development - writing tracks like this may have come across as forced. On several tracks, Yemin has borrowed some of his tempo-change tricks from his Kid Dynamite days. Those tricks still work pretty well, and keep the songs sounding fresh. Overall, the album is played fast - a decade may have passed, but these guys sure as hell can still rock out.
Yes, the new Lifetime album is not as good as their first two. But they are still a great band - one of the best punk bands ever. In a not-unwelcome way, the album closer, "Records at Nite" evokes the epic finale feel of "Ostrichsized," the last track on Bastards. The song has an appropriately nostalgic feel: "We could just play / records at night / I know it's been a long time."