Local 717 (EP)


Kavalry, 2018


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Released to very little fanfare, Local 717 sees the stalwart Pennsylvania post-grunge band Live reunited after a 12-year hiatus and rediscovering their sound.

From The Distance to Here onward, each successive Live album was met with increasingly lower sales and tepid reviews, and after 2006’s little-heard Songs From Black Mountain singer Ed Kowalczyk took off. The band released a pretty good album without him a few years ago, but that didn’t work out either, so now Kowalcyzk is back and everyone is getting along again.

my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Local 717 boasts four originals and a Velvet Underground cover, and if there is no guaranteed jaw-dropping song in the bunch like the old days, the EP as a whole is inspired and energetic. That it recalls the sound of Birds of Pray and V is inevitable, but it would have been disingenuous to re-create the sound or feel of Throwing Copper anyway. This is just about four longtime friends making the type of music they enjoy, without trying to make a Statement, and it’s good to hear after such a long absence.

The best of the bunch is “Brother,” recalling the best Eastern-tinged parts of Secret Samadhi in its introduction before giving way to a roiling, rollicking anthem that Live used to do six, seven times per album. Nearly as good is “Be A Giver, Man,” which gives away its lyrical conceit in its title but which has the most to unpack here, a classic alt-rock song with a swirling Stone Temple Pilots-esque midsection. “Love Lounge” and “Waterfall” pale by comparison, perhaps better than the bulk of the band’s last three albums but still pretty standard Live fare.

“Venus in Furs” is an oddball cover of a 51-year-old song, not least because an anthemic, moody arena-rock band hardly seems the vehicle for Velvet Underground songs. But it works because the band slows the tempo, turns up the amps, adds a string section and mines the melancholy doom inherent (but never explicit) in the original track. Kowalczyk, not just here but on the whole EP, also is content to let his voice be an instrument to serve the song instead of the sole vocal point that it became on later Live albums. A chastened, semi-humble but still authoritative Kowalczyk serves this type of music very well.

I’d love for these guys to release a full-length album again, hopefully with three of this EP’s songs on it, just because it’s good to hear them back together again. Definitely worth checking out no matter how you feel about Live or if you gave up on them after “The Dolphin’s Cry,” Local 717 is a very good EP.

Rating: B+

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