Livan - Off the Grid EP
Record Label - Pumpkin Music
Release Date - April 12, 2011
Despite his gloomy looks and art designs, Livan's music is more fun than it appears. Touches of glam and goth pervade their Off the Grid EP. Stylistically, it's refreshing, making bedfellows of Roxy Music and Bauhaus. The trouble is the execution. From the start, Livan is "radio ready," with a sheeny production that would be the envy of Moby's bald skull. It's weird because the music occasionally seems to beg for a raw appeal. It feels very controlled, which would make sense for their radio-ready sound, but it sacrifices naturalism for sterility.
Still, there are plenty of moments that rock hard enough with well-devised hooks. The highlight of the seven-song disc is "The Silence" with its anthemic chorus. It's a real winner and will surely grab many new fans on their current tour. The following track, "Sad," also has a compelling chorus that contrasts the goth rock verses. Because of his gloomy roots, Livan's knack for upbeat tunes and catchy choruses makes him stand out from the pack -- even if it is a very small pack. Few may be pursuing this kind of dark music, but Livan's combination of hooky glam with hard-edged goth rock works quite well. It's not wholly original, but it's refreshing.
Vocally, Livan is in his own place. His unique voice is a little off-putting at times, but he makes it work. He sounds creepy enough when he needs to, but he has difficulty with sweetness, though he does manage to get through "Sad" without sounding awkward. "Meet Me on the Other Side" finds him slightly overestimating Bryan Ferry's creepy croon on tracks like "In Every Dream Home a Heartache." Livan manages to get through without going overboard, but he borders on being a touch too much.
The EP's production plays it safe, to the effect of Livan's aforementioned "radio ready" appeal. It's professional but to the point where it is quite bland. The stiffness makes sense only for Livan's post-punk pretensions, but his efforts to combine that with glam hooks suggests that it shouldn't be so firm. His rock sensibilities should have led him to be a little more freewheeling. His music is surprisingly fun, so why not loosen up?
Overall, Livan's Off the Grid EP is a good effort but nothing profound. It finds itself frequently in the middle of the road, neither here nor there. He's a good performer and an apt songwriter, but he lacks something more to set him above. Maybe he's still chasing it, who knows. His effort is there, but he needs something more.