Back in September I lamented the decline of CD shops in Toronto. But I took solace in the fact that Neurotica was still occupying Queen St. West. (aside: Sonic Boom occupies a prime spot on Spadina north of Queen and Vortex Records is still a prime destination at Yonge and Eglinton) Well, not for long. Neurotica is leaving Queen West. If you’re interested in where they’ll end up, follow them on their Facebook page.
While I was digging through the lonely bin outside Neurotica’s storefront, I found a copy of Life of Agony’s “Ugly”. Best known to me as the album with their sweet cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Forget About Me”. For a buck I gladly took it home not having a clue what any of their other material sounded like. A buck a song isn’t bad, after all!
Despite being put off by the melodramatic band name and the uninteresting album cover, I found “Ugly” to be quite enjoyable! It’s definitely a 90′s record crossing over between alternative metal and post-grunge. Think of Finger Eleven’s first record when they were still called “Rainbow Butt Monkeys”. (speaking of silly band names) But the melodies are solid. Vocalist Keith Caputo doesn’t always sing in tune, but his passion is infectious. Opening track “Seasons” has a simple, yet catchy little outro. “Lost at 22″ establishes a rolling groove reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline”. “How It Would Be” is surprisingly vunerable for the genre. (the opening line “I wonder how it would be if my Mother was still around” is not the most metal of openers) But it comes off as endearing rather than mushy.
The best part, of course, is the previously mentioned cover of Human League’s “Don’t You Forget About Me” conveniently placed at the very end. The first minute consists of the verse being quietly sung over atmospheric synths and drones. Then it immediately explodes into a crunchy take on the chorus. The band took the liberty of reworking the bridge into an emotional climax (which is fitting considering the rest of the record) before closing out the song in familiar fashion.
My expectations for “Ugly” were low. But it was actually really good! If you’re into 90′s alt/rock/metal/industrial bands like Stabbing Westward, Gravity Kills or God Lives Underwater, you’ll have a good time with Life of Agony.