Live ‘Throwing Copper’
From page 85 of Classic Rock Magazine December 2004
HOW DEEPLY UNPROMISING LIVE WERE.
They arrived during the dreary years known as ‘post-grunge’: four more blokes with short hair and the odd goatee, styled to fit in with a market that began organically but had been seized by the big, bad majors in the name of corporate sin. The band had a frontman with a naff fedora and an unpronounceable name (Ed Kowalczyk), and had recoreded a first album (‘Mental Jewelry’) based on the earnest Indian philosophies of Jiddu Krishnamurti. Then there were the lofty comparisons with REM and Pearl Jam to consider.
In short, Live had very little to recommend them.
But Live also recorded ‘Throwing Copper’, a remarkable album and a piece of work that set them apart from the proliferation of solemn chancers like Bush, Everclear and The Goo Goo Dolls. Here was an album with a sure and certain vision; a powerful and cohesive work that exceeded the conventions of its genre, and that – whisper it – was actually a whole heap of fun too.
In truth, Live had blundered into somebody else’s fight. After Nirvana became scathing of the sea change that their records had started, it wasn’t just the big-hair bands who suffered from a growing critical tyranny. Suddenly the new ‘authenticity’ produced a very narrow field of play. But the outsiders who were good enough – most notably Stone Temple Pilots and Live – rode it out with the sheer
strength of their music. ‘Throwing Copper’ was unashamedly anthemic, but it was delivered with a genuine and overwhelming passion that asserted a grip on
‘I Alone’ ‘Iris’
both heart and head.
It was led by some huge radio hits – ‘I Alone’, ‘Selling The Drama’ and ‘All Over You’ – all of which exploited and almost perfected the ‘quiet- loud-quiet’ template laid down by Nirvana, Pearl Jam et al, but that came with their own twist – Kowalczyk’s impassioned voice. Here was a man as original in his method as the young Eddie Vedder was in his. They shared the ability to make the everyday sound apocalyptic, albeit in very different ways.
Kowalczyk was occasionally too melodramatic – ‘T.B.D.’ concerned the Tibetan Book Of The
Dead; ‘Stage’ was an overcooked ode to Kurt and Courtney – but those were rare mis-steps. The opening five songs – ‘The Dam At Otter
Creek’, ‘Selling The Drama’, ‘I Alone’, ‘Iris’ and the imposing ‘Lightning Crashes’ – made a compelling case for Live’s excellence. They were broad and deep, daringly conceived and wonderfully executed. Later, Live even had the nerve for a little throwaway fun with ‘Shit Towne’.
‘Throwing Copper’ became a big hit for an anonymous band. The character of the players – Kowalczyk, plus guitarist Chad Taylor, bassist Patrick Dalheimer and drummer Chad Gracey – failed to flower in all of the attention, and the next Live record, ‘Secret Samadhi’, bore the brunt of the self-importance that ‘Throwing Copper’ built up in them.
Subsequent Live albums have touched the heights only in parts, with last year’s ‘Birds Of Prey’ perhaps their next best. But ‘Throwing Copper’ remains worthy of careful consideration when the strongest records released during that fractured era are assessed.