Album Review: LIFE - 'A Picture of Good Health'

Jess tells us why punk outfit LIFE's second offering will distinguish their live shows and cement their status as one of the country's exciting new talents.

After seeing independent four-piece LIFE make the Big Top Tent their bitch at their native Hull’s Humber Street Sesh Festival, I knew these guys were one to watch. Their second full length album, A Picture of Good Health, dropped on the 20th September and was subsequently named Album of the Weekend on BBC Radio 1 and Album of the Day on BBC Radio 6. So, with their European tour kicking off in less than a week, I had a cheeky listen myself.

Image courtesy of Matt Mollson

Opening title track Good Health is exactly how all great opening tracks should be; it’s a battering ram of pure pleasure featuring a thundering bassline throughout that certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album, which deals with themes of mental health, single parenthood and self-criticism. Lyrics include: ‘And it feels like your life must mean something / but it points to nothing / it’s what fucking happens’. I can only imagine how beautifully boisterous this track will sound performed on their upcoming tour – it’s a personal favourite of mine.

Continuing with Moral Fibre and its more classic punk vibes, the album remains captivatingly upbeat as this track juxtaposes frontman Mez Green’s always-energetic vocals with its chorus call-out of ‘Pissants / Woo!’ (a 17th century word defining an insignificant or contemptible person or thing). Cheery stuff. However, the tone hardens with the third track, Bum Hour. Reflecting on newly single parenthood, Green sarcastically drawls ‘I just wanna lie and sleep in’ in the pre-chorus before belting out his woes alongside screeching guitar and a powerful bassline. Again, blasé vocal additions in the following track Hollow Thing served well, and although I found this one to be slightly repetitive, a sick drum fill towards its conclusion won me over once more.

'It's a bettering ram of pure pleasure featuring a thundering bassline throughout that certainly sets the tone for the rest of the album'.

Excites Me, in contrast, proved to live up to its title; two and a half minutes of good and proper post-punk noise in which I can almost picture Green cavorting around onstage like a young Jarvis Cocker. Yet another favourite track of mine enters as Never Love Again begins – an almost funky commentary on relationship breakdowns with a rumbling bassline, contrasting whispered and chanted vocals and some tasty sonic noise. Half Pint Fatherhood displays the best of Green’s vocal style; the sardonic sneer he maintains in the verse against the brashness of the chorus is simply magnetic.

The next track, Grown Up, immediately reminded me of punk rock duo Slaves, with its rapid drum pacing, traditional punk vocals and another round of LIFE’s signature stormy bass from Lydia Palmeira. Niceties was also reminiscent of another artist for me, though this time I thought of Blur’s Parklife as I heard the former’s drawl of ‘I don’t care for niceties’. The following Thoughts comes in the form of an impressive grungy monologue, though intertwined with its chorus’ more traditional vocal style. Brutally sarcastic lines are delivered wonderfully in its second verse: ‘I was thinking of building a church in a third country / to hone my soul / I was thinking I would document it all on Twitter and Instagram / and talk about it constantly’. Although clearly a bitter indictment of society’s toxic social media culture, Mez Green clearly knows someone who has been on a gap year.

This track is then somehow trumped by the even more critical It’s A Conone for fans of extensive noisy intros, as it takes up a third of the three-minute running time. As the title suggests, LIFE takes a hit at consumer culture, calling out ‘fast food so good it’s bubbling / your body it’s malfunctioning’, and ends the track with a layered amalgamation of good old fashioned punky angst.

'[It's] two and a half minutes of good and proper post-punk noise in which I can almost picture Green cavorting around onstage like a young Jarvis Cocker'.

The penultimate song of the album, Don’t Give Up Yet, also emanates Slaves vibes, if not even IDLES – once more, through its punchy chorus, Mez and drummer Stew Baxter kick some serious ass. There is also some really impressive guitar work by Mick Sanders, as sonic screeches round the track off nicely alongside Green’s crescendo of ‘I’m fine / just fine’, which symbolises the struggles of mental health. The album concludes with the minute-long monologue New Rose In Love, an oddly captivating lyrical maze that jumps right in with the lines ‘Cocaine won’t do it / Coca-Cola won’t do it / Crocodile won’t do it / The only thing that will is you’ and ends in an abrupt, yet poetic finish.

It is of no surprise that this record has been so critically successful; this quartet are more than musically proficient and with such a strongly defined sound, complementary vocal style and gritty, unashamed lyrics, their upcoming tour will no doubt be just as much of a success.