Lovedrug- Pretend You're Alive (The Militia Group)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. In Red
2. Black Out
3. Spiders
4. Rock N Roll
5. Pretend You're Alive
6. Pandamoranda
7. Down Towards The Healing
8. The Monster
9. Angels With Enemies
10. Radiology
11. Candy
12. It Won't Last
13. Paper Scars



After listening to Pretend You’re Alive, the debut from Lovedrug, you’d think that you just listened to something by a British band from the late 80’s or early 90’s, not a disc by a group from Ohio that only formed in 2002.

And that is high praise for this Canton-based foursome. Pretend You’re Alive shows an incredible maturity for a debut release. The band, comprised of lyricist Michael Shepard on lead vocals, guitar and piano; David Owen on guitar and backing vocals; Adam Ladd on bass and Matthew Putnam on drums, deftly alternates between jangly guitar pop, emotional piano ballads, quiet acoustic tracks and hard-edged neo-grunge numbers. The disc’s opener, “In Red,” is also one of its highlights with music reminiscent of latter-day Smashing Pumpkins. “It Won’t Last” is another standout, with its electric piano melody backed by some dark power chords on guitar and heavy percussion that includes a military drum section. The song, clocking in at seven minutes in length, closes with an extended instrumental freakout. And “The Monsters” is another brooding number that switches between quieter guitar/vocal passages and thrashing mayhem.

Pretend You’re Alive includes a handful of tracks where Shepard’s piano is front and center. The title track opens with a drum loop and some distorted guitar, but soon morphs into a Coldplay-like piano number. “Down Towards The Healing” plays out much the same way. The disc closes with the short “Paper Scars,” which features Shepard singing unaccompanied, save for his piano.

Speaking of Shepard, his vocals may be something of an acquired taste. His voice is sort of a cross between Thom Yorke and Billy Corgan with some Alanis Morissette thrown in (yes, I am serious), which means he has quite a range, but he can also come across as whiney at times. Still, he generally manages to use this to good affect, like on “Blackout,” where the lead vocal is of the whiney variety, but an excellent backing vocal and some solid guitar-driven rock enhances its tone.

Pretend You’re Alive is a very impressive debut. And it makes me wonder how they’ll be able to top it with their sophomore release.

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