Being that I have followed the music of Madison / LA band Lion’s Mouth since their inception, and previously followed the career of founding member Chelsea Z, it seems appropriate to offer my thoughts on their debut album. While I may be biased in favor of the band, by no means is my assessment meant to be a “puff piece”, empty praise or lip service.
- Waiting. This song has been a staple of LM from day one. While never my favorite, it was always a strong song and comes across even stronger on this album than in past incarnations. A great way to start the disc.
- Crucible. Which came first, Lion’s Mouth or this song? One complements the other, and this is something of a theme song for the band, inspired by the brave men and women of the Middleton (WI) fire department. As one of the more rocking songs from LM, it should please those who want a little more than “east listening”. Definitely one of the strongest tracks.
- Distance. Like “Waiting”, this has been another LM staple. Frankly, it was one I never cared for that much. Not that it was a bad song, but it never struck me. The mastered version is vastly superior to the live version with the fuller sound, and this could now rightly be considered among the stronger songs.
- That Would Imply I Cared. The most striking thing about this song is the unusual guitar work at the end. Of all the songs on the album, this one benefits the most from the solid producing. That guitar work is mellowed out, which would generally be a bad thing, but actually becomes more melodic in the process. In general, the studio seems to make the intense live songs less intense, and the less intense live songs more full of sound. Despite a debatable loss here or there, the overall effect is positive, and this song is best evidence. It has gone from good to great in the process.
- Soulmates. No thoughts yet.
- Carolina. This had been one of my favorite LM songs from the beginning, perhaps second only to “Crucible”. However, this is one where the studio makes it somewhat “flat” and not as energetic as the live version. Still a strong song, but drops a few notches from what it could be. As a side note, it is nice to see a lyrical change from the original version, correcting (in my opinion) a poor choice of words.
- Little Galah. This is a hard track to judge. Personally, it is just not my kind of song. It’s not bad, but not my thing. So this, for me, is a middle-of the-road track.
- Who Knew? Another track helped by studio mastering. When performed live, the words “You knew, didn’t you?” are cried out in anguish. As much as I like that level of emotion (part of what makes music worth experiencing live), it has the negative effect of making the end of the song stronger (or at least more memorable) than the beginning. The recorded version makes this end less anguished, more melodic, which may “cut the balls off” of the end, but strengthens the song as a whole. Because of this recording, the track has gone from being one of the tracks I liked to one I really enjoy. A game-changer.
- The Ocean. Although this song has been around longer than many LM songs, it never really caught my fancy. The biggest reason is that I always felt it was too long. On the album, this track comes to 2:47, the second shortest on the album. Now, maybe it was my imagination, but I don’t recall it ever being this short. And now I like it better… rather than feeling too long, it feels like you want more. And that’s a good sell.
- The Dr. No thoughts yet.
- Run. No thoughts yet.
- Coming Home. Putting the instrumental track last was a wise choice, as it completes the album nicely. Why it is called “Coming Home” is unclear, but maybe it is best for the listener to speculate. Also nice about this track being instrumental is it showcases how seamlessly the guitar and drums interact, mesh, play off of each other. One part would be incomplete with the other.
Final thoughts: I would have liked to see something fun, like “Zaza”, appear as a hidden track, but concede it might be the wrong sound to go with the rest of the album. It would also have been great to hear “God Help Me” in place of one of the weaker songs. This song seems to have disappeared completely from the band’s repertoire, and that is a shame. Of the pre-LM songs, it was by far the strongest and most compelling. Hearing it mastered would have been a treat.