Album Review: "Throwing Copper" by Live
This is my first article in reviewing music, and I hope I do justice to this amazing album.
Live is well-known as a 90’s alternative rock band. The album Throwing Copper was my first exposure to the guys in recent months. I have heard “I Alone” on YouTube, and kept going back to listen to it, until I decided to listen to the whole album.
When I saw the cover art, I was immediately reminded of the band Queen’s News Of The World album art. This is an excerpt from a source explaining what the art could mean:
“Sisters of Mercy, 1989. The subjects of betrayal, revenge and fear are exemplified in this work. The man, holding a Bible close to his chest, is being urged to throw himself over the cliff by a group of prostitutes. His eyes are closed, his faith in God seemingly undiminished as he nears death. Could this suggest the futility of religion? ...”
The first track “The Dam At Otter Creek” starts off very ambient-like.
Chad Taylor, the lead guitarist, repeats the same notes, setting the atmosphere as it builds up. Ed Kowalczyk then starts to sing, adding another layer to the song.
The rhythm section, consisting of Patrick Dahlheimer on bass guitar and Chad Gracey on drums, kicks in, giving a punch every four measures. When the second chorus kicks in, that’s when the song gets loud.
Past the halfway mark, all the ambience has left and it is just straight-up emotional yelling of the lyrics and the music reinforces that feeling. It then fades out with a last chord and ambient sounds once more.
The second song “Selling The Drama” features Ed playing acoustic guitar as the rhythm. It is the first single out of five that the band released.
It first stuck out to me as a song you would hear in a church or something, before it reaches the chorus. The lyrics of this song includes Christ and God and a sense of unity and yet loss. Just the opening line gave me my first impression,
“And to love a God.”
It is a very catchy song in how in transitions like your basic alternative rock song. It feels blunt, but it’s hard to decipher with the religious metaphors. Not much to go on, but definitely a radio hit.
The third song “I Alone” gives the band its post-grunge sound. The dynamic changes from soft to harsh is well-shown, with the simplicity of the three chords in the verses.
The lyrics feel as they have some sort of religious connotations, mentioning being alone in the church.
“We long to be here by his resolve”
This lyric sounds like something a priest would say when you ask questions about your religion. The following are two lines from the first verse.
“I sank into Eden with you, alone in the church by and by.”
Eden, or the Garden of Eden is mostly synonymous with Christianity even if it’s in Jewish eschatology and in Islam in some form.
We can then defer that Ed means Catholicism or Christianity. This religious connection further pushes the mysticism the whole album seems to foreshadow.
The chorus can be taken as God speaking to the listener.
“I alone love you, I alone tempt you, I alone love you, fear is not the end of this”,
The bridge changed the overall feel of philosophical angst to a more joyous acceptance for a couple of seconds.
With the first three songs, it has set the scene for the rest of the album and how the songs are positioned. It gives you a nudge, then a push, and back to a soft nudge. Sometimes within one song, it’s both relaxing and harsh.
The fourth song “Iris” is one of my absolute favorites by this band. The intro just captivated me in how one simple chord with effects and a sultry bass lick set the scene. The opening lyric is one of the best opening lyrics I have heard in my life honestly.
“I like the way my hand looked on your head”
It gave me chills.
The song was heavy enough to please my aesthetics, yet still smooth to please people that I can show this to. I like that the chorus doesn’t focus on a ride or hi-hat cymbal, but instead uses the toms.
The chorus was originally my favorite part after the first listen, but the bridge is a huge kick for me. It’s definitely in a major key, until Ed sings,
“Until I take their flags”
for the first time.
The B flat power chord makes it sound as if it was drastically changed into a minor key, but it’s Ed and Chad’s voices that made it sound as if the whole song changed. The guitar chord was a power chord to make it ambiguous to sound both major and minor.
With a strong last chorus, Chad on the drums gives the hi-hat a nice dancing feel.
“Lightning Crashes” is the fifth song off this album. It is the third out of the five singles released. Like the first song, it’s a slow, quiet song leading up to a big chorus, and the play of dynamics are at work.
Lyrically, one can interpret at first glance as a mother dying during childbirth. Here’s a quote that can give you better insight,
“According to an uncited Wiki quote from Kowalczyk, neither the song nor the video is about stillbirth, but rather a woman having a baby at the same time another woman dies.”
I honestly don’t have much to say for the song besides what has been quoted. It pretty much explains everything.
Even if it was a radio hit, it feels as a filler to me. A good filler that transitions into the next song.
The sixth song “Top” is a lively song starting off with the band and Ed’s weird buzzer sounding yells. With how the verse is played out, I didn’t expect the chorus to sound more joyous.
It’s a little transition into hopefulness then back into a downcast trip. I like how the bridge goes,
“Oh Hitler, in a robe of truth, my emptiness has built your altar, and I've worshipped myself in you forever, until now”.
In all previous songs, there was no reference to Hitler. Seeing how there were a lot of religious connections already, the Hitler reference could link to how he persecuted also Christians.
The chorus can be alluding to the song’s title.
“Pick me up and put me on the ground. Set me up and spin me all around”
The seventh song “All Over You” is another close favorite of mine. This is the fourth out of the five singles.
Lyrically it’s very short, but still very powerful. I thought Ed sang,
“I love you, like water”
and made a semi-false conclusion that the title and the lyrics talked about the bonding of sexual relationships. He actually says,
“Our love is, like water, beaten down and abused for being strange”
I don’t feel that I’m really wrong as the chorus states,
“All over you, all over me”
Bringing back the religion into this, the song can refer to a sexual event under the acceptance of both participants’ deity.
However, the opposite can be true. With the opening lines of both verses, the subject’s love is like a natural substance, but it is condemned probably because of their religious backgrounds.
A third interpretation could be the subject crushing on a prostitute as they make love. With the end of the chorus, the prostitute only cares about their job while the one who paid for their services is in love with them.
“Pay me now, lay me down”
A kind of forbidden love, due to their backgrounds. It is a powerful song replacing the physical scene and translating it into music to our ears.
The eighth song is “Shit Towne”. In time signatures, “Shit Towne” is apparently in 15/8.
I original thought the majority of the song was in 4/4 and the pre-chorus (or second half of the verse) is in 5/4 or 9/8. This site helped confirm the timing.
The song is about the band’s hometown of York, Pennsylvania. At live performances, the band comments they come from a shit town, then start playing the song.
The lyrics state,
“The weavers live up the street from me, the crackheads, they live down the street from me”
It’s a very straight-forward song, with all the criticism being blunt. The chorus is my favorite part!
The ninth song is called “T.B.D.”. It’s a very Zen song as it flows along like a really well done filler episode of a series. “T.B.D.” stands for Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The song picks up towards the end, but the majority of the time Ed sings in sort of a whisper-like voice, monotone almost. It creates a gentle atmosphere, riding on Pat’s bass riffs.
It’s like a song that fills in the changing scenes of a movie. Lyrics-wise, there are more references to God, and a book.
The tenth song “Stage” is by far the fastest on this album, sounding like a punk sound with its direct entrance. The chorus mentions a “Rock and roll messiah”, giving the impression of Jesus.
With all their religious metaphors, it feels as Ed or someone he talks about compares themselves as a rock star on the level of Jesus.
This can explain why the song is so punchy and in your face. The raw expression of thinking you’re better than Jesus is very prominent.
The eleventh song is “Waitress”. The song also seems very blunt, singing about leaving tips for a waitress, but instead calling the tips “change”.
It’s very possible that this song is a representation of what the band members experienced in a diner or something. Short, cute, and all the thoughts just spewed out. It really feels as if the song was written on the spot, however that’s not a bad thing though.
The twelfth song is called “Pillar Of Davidson”. It’s another one of the Zen songs that gave this album the shine.
“The Dam At Otter Creek”, “T.B.D.”, and this song showcase that the band was diving into darker territory.
The chorus sounds a lot like a song by the band R.E.M. Very melodic and catchy, while the main chunks of this song are calmer, and philosophical.
The background vocals over the last chorus gave it a nice feel.
The thirteenth song, “White, Discussion” is the fifth and final single for this album. It starts off very quirky with a bit of some funk due to the bass. Lyrically, the opening lines are really good, in my opinion.
The title means a discussion of some sort, and the lyrics is the situation unfolding through discussing.
“I talk of freedom, you talk of the flag. I talk of revolution, you'd much rather brag”
The difference in political opinion is a huge topic in music alone, but I feel as these lyrics stand true to even today.
As the song continues, it loses the quirkiness and becomes more direct and slightly disturbed in a sense.
“As our sanity walks away, all this discussion though politically correct”.
The previous are lines from the second verse.
It can describe the discussion as getting intense. It ends in such an upheaval of sound meaning that everything gave up. A flute of some sort plays some notes like a traditional song.
As it closes off, some radio static appears and talking comes though.
The fourteenth and final song off Throwing Copper is “Horse”. Originally, “"Horse" is a hidden track and is not mentioned on the album cover.
The tracks "Pillar of Davidson" and "Horse" were not included on the original 1994 vinyl version.
They were, however, included on the 2012 vinyl reissue on Music on Vinyl, which also added "Horse" to the track listing.
It’s very reminiscent of a country-styled, alternative rock piece. It’s a cool ending to this album, although it doesn’t really fit in with the overall emotion of the musical journey. It’s more of a head-nodding and catchy song mixed in with other far more expressive songs.
It’s more of a B-side to me, but I guess that’s why it was hidden. It’s a very decent track, but seeing how I listened to all 14 songs together as an album, it doesn’t hold up well.
Listening to the original track list, I do believe it was better that way. However, “Pillar Of Davidson” should have been in the original list.
That concludes my review of Throwing Copper by Live. I went in depth as much as I could, because I want people to discuss if they agree or disagree and if they liked my interpretations.
All the interpretations are my opinions only, unless backed up with a quote. I hope you all enjoy my future music reviews!
What did you think of Throwing Copper? Let me know in the comments below.