Last year, upon reviewing ‘Aftermath’, the debut 4-track EP from London’s As Lions, I questioned the wisdom of a new band coming out of the gates with something so apocalyptic and pessimistic. It seems now that the EP was meant to serve as a precursor to this debut album, ‘Selfish Age’. If it was meant to be a preview, it did it no justice.
‘Selfish Age’ doesn’t fall far from the tree, thematically, from the EP – it’s an exhaustive (sometimes literally) continuation of the following ideas: the end of the world, the death of everything, the apocalypse, the fact that there is no hope. Given the state of the world right now, it seems that As Lions have accidentally created an album designed for the here and now (it can’t be a coincidence that it was released on Donald Trump‘s inauguration day, can it?).
If that sounds really dark, it isn’t. The new 7 tracks which accompany the 4 already released are dynamic fun. One of the best tracks, ‘Pieces’, which does nothing to improve the quality Austin Dickinson‘s lyrics (moon-spoon-June offerings like “So why do we bend? / Why do we break? / If we’re numb to everything / Floating in time / Closing our eyes / ’til we shatter in the skies”) is catchy, and finds the band hitting all the treble notes they avoided before this.
The title-track is impressively produced, fist pumping, and full of hooks. It swoops and soars around in a way that the two songs sandwiching it, ‘Deathless’ and ‘White Flags’ (both of which came out with ‘Aftermath’), don’t, and shows them up.
James Joyce famously said “in the particular we find the universal.” As Lions could learn this. When the song’s subject is “I/My” rather than “We/Our”, the music carries more weight. ‘Bury My Dead’, rather than focusing on the (vague) apocalypse, works effectively as a dark metaphor, and feels more personal without sacrificing the overall tone. It also highlights how well-shaped the rhythm throughout the record.
As Lions are still searching for their secret sauce, and much like an inexperienced teenager who goes abroad to erect badly-made shelters, they need to stop leading from the front as the world drives off a cliff, and instead tell us what is important to them. This is an entertaining, far better effort, let down by the lingering hangover of those original four songs.
Written by Chris Yeoh (@Chris_Yeoh)