Living Things’ “Bombs Below,” the first track on their Turn In Your Friends & Neighbors EP, has a sound that’s both hard and defeated. It’s as good hit-your-fist-into-the-wall music as you’ll ever get, but its condition of existence is that the wall stays intact. And the music feels ageless; it’s so spare that it could be categorized as metal or punk or just plain hard rock, since there are not enough signifiers to make the distinction. Such a song could have emerged at any time from 1969 to the present; so even though the style goes way back, the song doesn’t sound like a throwback (don’t call it a throwback, it’s been here for years).
The EP packaging identifies President Bush as a tyrant and uses as a backdrop the Declaration of Independence whose values Bush is in danger of eviscerating. But in the song lyrics themselves, the politics are but half-expressed; the person singing has impulses that he can’t turn into ideas, and rather than fake the ideas, he just gives you the impulses. “Where do all the dead boys go?/No solution just bombs below.” I can’t tell who’s narrating: In the first half of the song, the “we” seems to be stoner boys who are being harvested for cannon fodder; in the second half, the “we” is the old warmongers sending the kids to die. But that’s just one way to interpret it. The sound subdues any extended interpretation. Read the news, feel rage, make a fist. No solution. No future.
Living Things play Irving Plaza August 15.