Living in Question – Recipes & Remedies
Do you have people you interact with who, when they suggest music you simply listen? I certainly do, and even better I have developed an instinct for discovering quickly when someone falls into that category. While reviewing ‘Levin-Torn-White’, I exchanged emails with producer Scott Schorr of Lazy Bones Records, and I really liked his musical instincts on the record and music in general. So when he approached me recently and said he had something ‘not quite what I normally listen to, but he thought I would enjoy it’ … I simply had to try it out.
The group is Living in Question with their new release ‘Recipes & Remedies’. And he was right … on both counts. Let’s take a look!
Summary: The world of rock music has seemed rather stale to me for a number of years: there is too much space given to reunion tours or regroupings or combined efforts or attempts at reliving former greatness – too much of the Stones and Van Halen and others. I know there is plenty of great rock being made – but between the shifting in industry focus to getting the most value from the fewest artists, and aging artists seeking to maintain lifestyles and finding aging audiences willing to help them … it seems harder to find quality rock music even though I know there is plenty out there.
Living In Question is a band from Hawaii, but don’t let that lead you to think they are a bunch of mellow surfer dudes strumming ukeleles! The band consists of Chris Albers on guitar and vocals, Frank Bianchini on drums and percussion, Glynn Motoishi on lead vocals and keyboards, Jason Paulsen on bass. These guys can really rock … let’s take a look at the music.
Starting off with Recipe, the album lays it all out there for you. The acoustic intro reminds me somewhat of some of the classics of rock from Rush to Led Zepplin to The Who, quickly transitioning to a more traditional rock intro and then into a heavy driving section with a raw, almost ‘screamo’ vocal. They are distinct yet harmonious – something you will find throughout the recording. The band lays down tracks that will shift quickly but never feel disjointed. For me it was one of the major attractions of the album.
The juxtaposition of rock subgenres is a common theme throughout the album, and something that I found worked amazingly well at giving the sound a classic yet current feel all at once. An interesting example – while driving with my older son and listening to Noose, I was hearing a mix of late 60s songwriting, 70s harmonies, 80s metal camp at time, and some clear 90s heavy rock refocused through a modern lens. For me it didn’t get more specific than that, but my son brought up the Beatles for the opening chorus and Avenged Sevenfold through much of the song.
The strong songwriting ethic appears frequently on the album, with bouncy melodic gems such as Dive Bar Daydreams, So Long, Need To Breathe, Pinfront and We Are The Chain. Yet these songs are each very distinct in how they impart a hard rock edge to the melodic focus. Each of the songs draws you into a story and envelops you with a strong groove before pulling back and leaving you wanting more before rocker harder than before with an even deeper sonic onslaught.
I keep coming back to the way the band filters decades of influences through their own unique lens, taking their songs on a journey through the history of rock without ever sounding dated. I emphasize this because it is critical to why the album works so well. We have a song like Pinfront that has a verse harmonic structure that ties in 70s and 90s amazingly well without sounding retro, and on the fade-out has a super-flanged effect sweeping across the entire track that would have sounded dated in many contexts but really ties together everything they are doing with the song – and is something that has been out of vogue for long enough that it was immediately appealing to my kids and their friends (this album was easy to play for teens).
There are a string of vignettes called ‘Daydream’ that are intersperse between the other songs and provide a nice moment of introspection before getting into the next main selection. Each Flake Has Its Own Parachute is a hard-driving instrumental that mixes up syncopated rhythms, extended bass riffs and straight-driving rock motifs. It is a great showcase for the instrumentalists.
While there are many melody-based songs, Living In Question excels at heavy riff-based songs as well. In this regard my favorites are The Mess Ivan Made and WTF. WTF is just totally out of control with raw emotion and desperation, so intense musically and vocally that any sense of melody is carried by a driving rhythmically pulsing syncopated riff that drops into a bass-and-drum second verse that is intimate and chilling, making the reappearance of the guitar even more impactful.
The Mess Ivan Made does something great that surprised me; it starts with a raspy-vocal, riff-driven opening verse with octave guitar lines punctuating the vocal line. Then suddenly at the end of the first verse the riff completely changes to something that reminds me of a Led Zepplin phrase translated through a more modern harmonic vision. The chorus blends both in a way that is different from either yet ties them both together amazingly well. It showcases the powerful way the group uses heavy syncopated rhythm – and space – so effectively to create and release tension in their songs. But the surprise is when the song goes into a fade out, a new riff begins that is a twist on the original with some elements taken from the second verse, yet it took me until the vocals reappeared to realize it was a false ending – very effective.
I found it fitting that the album ended on a softer and more introspective note with Need To Breathe. The song itself is beautiful, with a sweet melodic line telling a sad story backed by acoustic guitar with background guitar providing heavy environmental sounds that reminded me at times of Bill Frisell or Trey Gunn. While the structure might seem different than most of the other songs, what ties it together for me is how the focus is on songwriting, sonic possibilities, and never settling for the easy path through a song.
And it is those things, along with the constant feeling of being on a ride through rock music history, that makes this such a wonderfully enjoyable and highly recommended album for me.
Choice Track (and why): WTF – it was not easy choosing a single track from the diverse picks, but ultimately this is the one that I know will be one of those ‘go to’ songs – and already is for my older son, who grabbed it on his iPhone and has streamed it out of his room on more than a couple of occasions.
You Might Love This If: If you are a fan of uncompromising, hard driving rock music that comes out of the great history of groups that focus on songwriting, strong musicianship, and constant learning. There are classic sounds, innovative riffs, hard-driving rhythms and everything else you would expect – except perhaps for bombastic guitar pyrotechnics. This is a group effort at all times, so while there are guitar solos and occasional focus on drums or bass, what you constant hear is a band, working together extremely well.
Here is a promo video for the album:
Where to Buy:has the MP3 album for $9.99
As I said at the start, there are people whose opinions you simply trust, and I trusted Scott Schorr of Lazy Bones Records based on his great work with Tony Levin – and he is now 2-for-2 with great recommendation. And, quite frankly, since he was producer of both recordings, it reflects on his abilities to bring across the visions of disparate artists in different genres. So right now I definitely recommend checking out , but I would also be on the lookout for the next Scott Schorr production!
Until next time, enjoy the great joys of whatever music you love!