People Like Us Should Be Stopped, Volume One
Indie rock staples Idaho have released a live album. While the California based Idaho is an incredible band, a live album seems a bit inconsequential. In fact, it may be self-defeating. You see, the only people who would be totally jazzed on an Idaho live album would be fans who only lived to see Idaho play, people who mark an Idaho show as the best they've ever seen, fans who have always wished Idaho would've made a stop in their town, and the band themselves. But, upon listening to People Like Us... it becomes apparent that despite being masters of their craft, Idaho is probably not that interesting live. For those that have seen the band Low perform, you know that there's very little difference between falling asleep on a bed with the album playing on the hi-fi or falling asleep on the floor at a concert venue while the band is playing in front of you. That's the feeling that People Like Us... projects. The live setting isn't changing things very much.
The disc starts off with "Here To Go", which has the potential to lull you to sleep right off the bat, but 2 minutes and 30 seconds deep you’re surrounded by a barrage of noise. The reason it may be self-defeating is because now you're forced to put this music in the context of a live setting. Idaho's music, which seems so strong in a studio setting, now forces you to wonder what you'd be doing while the music is being played. Do you dance? Do you sit? Do you stand around and watch the band play, shifting your weight from one leg to the other every few minutes? The drums add the force here on almost every song and their presence does tend to punch things up a bit, only to see the energy drop off after only a few measures. Again, this doesn't show through on their studio work and I'm reluctant to re-examine those albums for fear that I may now feel the energy drop where I never had before.
Despite the unsatisfying energy on the disc, if the gritty guitar work and entrancing vocals of Jeff Martin don't impress you, then nothing will. Martin's voice is so powerful on tracks like "Creep" and "God's Green Earth" that his voice becomes another instrument. Though most of Idaho's songs tend to sound strangely similar to one another, Martin is a fantastic songwriter. His chord changes defy that of traditional songwriting, but in that he conjures up a unique sound that seems more inspired than those of his contemporaries.
When all is said and done, People Like Us... is a good album at best and a good album at worst.
Unfortunately, listening to a live recording doesn't enhance the experience of listening to the band's studio work. It doesn't get me excited to go out and see Idaho play live. I don't think any more or any less of the band. That really is too bad, because Idaho is capable of so much more. The band continually impresses me, but sadly, this is not one of those occurrences.
As a side note, one really cool thing about this album is that if you play it on repeat, the last song fades into the first.
this review is/was online at Hybrid Magazine
and is available here for archival use only