Joie De Vivre - We're All Better Than This
Record Label: Count Your Lucky Stars
Release Date: June, 2012
I turn 24 next week. Most of my friends have careers, cars, partners, stability. Or at least one of the above. I have none, which is why this record could not have hit home any harder than it did. Every lyric resonates with my life tenfold.
We’re All Better Than This is Joie De Vivre’s comeback LP from a greatly contested split back in 2011. Realising their revered value in this scene they’ve returned stronger than ever, and boy are we glad to have them back. WABTT oozes with sentiment; the trials and tribulations we all unexpectedly find ourselves presented with, as our youth wanes, and we move into our twenties. It’s about reaching that age where you realise you are no longer looking forward to that next birthday, you have no idea what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, and a shroud of uncertainty seems ever present.
The record delves between moments of reflection, revelation and resolution. Opening with the line “we all die alone, so why care so much about living for someone else?”, could leave a cynic with the opinion that this is just another whiny high school emo record. This could not be further from the truth. There’s a desperate honesty clinging to all the songs on this release, with a resilient undertone; “I’ve finally decided, to be proud of myself” (‘I Guess Not’). football, etc.’s Lindsay Minton features on a lot of the tracks, adding a subtle beauty that balances perfectly with Brandon’s distinctive croon. Even the legend himself, Keith Latinen, features as a guest vocalist on ‘I Guess Not’.
As you may have gathered so far, I’m not going to even come close to faulting anything about WABTT, and this includes the production. Mark Gustafson and Chris French painstakingly produced, tracked and mixed the record themselves, and nothing was left untouched. It really is a joy to listen to. JDV have captured the best elements of their past releases, and refined their sound further. Most tracks are direct, clocking in at under three minutes. It’s hard to compare them with other bands, as they’ve honed their sound down to trademark value. However I can state that this is their best release, which says a lot for a band. Sure there will always be many old favourites, but start to finish on WABTT there’s not one ‘skipper’. Plenty of horn, a mix of sultry clean guitar tones, and bouts of fast paced distortion, as well as cleverly integrated auxiliary instruments.
I’ve been told not to read too much into the track names; the band doesn’t know half of them themselves! The opening track was even named bubble-gum-something at one point in its life. I would however read into the lyrics, as previously touched upon. At times Brandon Lutmer reminds me of fellow Chicagoan Dan Andriano (especially the line “I hope you hate him” - ‘Who Cares’). I recently had the pleasure of watching them perform live, screaming the line “I wanted to become a writer” (‘I Was Sixteen Ten Years Ago’) back at the band with every ounce of emotion in my chest, made me realise all the things I wanted to become when I was younger; one of them was a successful musician. Reading between the lines, this record is more about accepting what you have, rather than what you’ve failed at. Tales of the midwest, and broken relationships weave their way in and out, but the predominant theme is always impending age.
In terms of sing-a-long value, I could quote lyrics all night and still have more worth a mention. Back-to-back Lutmer’s vocals are accessible and more importantly, memorable. Mark Jaeschke’s toots add an element to the band that sets them a league apart from imitators; moderated melodies throughout. Most of the tracks are kept at a slow head nod pace by Kurzac, allowing the listeners to seamlessly slip through the entire LP.
The record ends on a positive, a marvellously almighty scream from Brandon, with preceding lyrics questioning “could I do better? I think I can, I know I have, I will”.
Put out on my favourite label, Count Your Lucky Stars, by one of my favourite bands, this is an extremely special release, that will stay close to my heart always.