Life GIves, Life Takes
Ever since stumbling upon The Generators’ mid-career highlight Excess, Betrayal and Our Dearly Departed, I’ve always considered it the best Bad Religion album not written or performed by Bad Religion. When he wants to, lead vocalist Doug Kane is the world’s premiere Greg Graffin impersonator. The infectious no-frills approach of the release soaked up a ton of my time and made for one of my favourite finds a few years back. Skip ahead a few years and the California quintet has quickly reached their tenth studio album milestone and continues to grow their audience.
Past comparisons aside though, their latest full length, Life Gives, Life Takes, will reach listeners on its own merits rather than by likeness to others. This time around, The Generators dig back into their bag of tricks and rummage around for some of their earlier career sounds, making for a grittier, less formulaic performance that carries over all of the compositional know-how you’d expect from a band of eighteen years. Opener “Gotta Be A Better Way” eases fans in safely with a quick two minutes of well-marked melodic punk rock. The guitars are fiercer, solos more targeted and the band’s overall willingness to push their boundaries means, Life Gives, Life Takes takes on a personality all of its own.
When it comes to taking chances, tracks like “Heartbreak Beach” do just that. Infusing a strong upstroke and wavering organ, The Generators try their hand at a sunny day ska-meets-surf romp with peppy results. Perhaps more surprising though is just how naturally hardnosed follow up “Castaways” switches gears. Front man Kane lowers his voice to a menacing grumble and the band opens with spiraling doomsday chords that capture the hopeless “left for dead” scenario therein described. “Nobody is going to rescue us, nobody is going to save us,” cautions Kane in a statement reflecting the sinking ship known as modern society. Heavy rockers like “Goodbye California” maintain a steady melody while balancing heavy, high-flying solos with a melodic cushion of verse-specific woah-oohs.
By this point, the band’s effort comes naturally and no one will question that they have their style down. But as with many of their prior outings, Life Gives, Life Takes isn’t without some less memorable downtime. For instance, “Neck And Neck With Death” and “Perfume And Poison” pass without making the sonic statement or vocal impact of “Here In A Heatwave” or the playful, catchy lyricism of “My Days Are Numbered.” With so much new and exciting going on, the songs not quite pushing the envelope tend to take a back seat. Without relegating any of the songs to “filler” status, some tunes will definitely earn more playtime than others.
With marked ambition and guitars that don’t hold back, Life Gives, Life Takes is going to be remembered as The Generators’ rock n’ roll album. Those of us who know The Generators from their likeness to others will need to change our schema from this point out. It has been said that The Generators are one of punk rock’s most underrated bands, so hopefully Life Gives, Life Takes changes that and more people start to take notice.