L.S. Dunes – ‘Past Lives’ Album Review

Photo Credit: Zachary Spangler

The debut album of supergroup L.S. Dunes was always going to be met with impossible-to-fulfill expectations – how could a collaboration between the Circa Survive lead singer Anthony Green and My Chemical Romance guitarist Frank Iero among others not? This sense of high expectations, and an eagerness to fulfill them, come across on the opener “2022,” whose sheer bombast alone reads as a mission statement. But while the quintet’s grouping makes sense on paper, the purpose of their debut Past Lives is less clear; it’s an album that often feels like it works better as a thought exercise than it does in reality. It’s clearly the work of five talented, experienced musicians – and there’s a certain, respectable standard of proficiency that runs throughout – but it often feels scattershot. 

There’s a lot of anger running through the LP, but who it’s directed at isn’t always abundantly clear. “Like Forever” is filled with references to conspiracism – “5G” poisoning, force-fed misinformation, “unvaccinated lungs” – but if you didn’t know who was singing these songs, you’d have no idea whether the band was promoting or condemning these paranoid ideas. “Past Lives” goes even further down the rabbit hole, becoming largely nonsensical by its end; fit with references to “the comment section grammar correction blues” and one particularly pained play on words (“Reject the influence // Reject the influenza”).

In Past Live’s defense, it is markedly better than the worst attempts we’ve seen to resurrect punk in the 2020s, and its creators clearly have a deeper and more meaningful connection to the genre than those like Machine Gun Kelly; whose interest in the sound seems to begin and end with how beneficial the sound is to their commercial success. In the album’s best moments, guitarists Frank Iero and Travis Stever are allowed to occupy center stage and cohesive narratives poke through. Such is evident on “Grey Veins”, a song that paints a compelling narrative of nihilism, as our narrator surrenders to not “believe in anything.”

However, for the most part, Past Lives feels awkwardly stuck between the worlds of hardcore and emo, and, pop-punk. As a result, we end up with an album that lacks the ferocity of, say, the newest Soul-Glo or Petrol Girls albums, while also missing the strong melodic tendencies and infectious hooks of the decades better pop-punk releases – like Willow’s Lately I Feel Everything or even Avril Lavigne’s Love Sux.

Written by: Tom Williams

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