When Lifetime reunited last year, a decade after the New Brunswick hardcore quintet’s mid-’90s heyday, the band played several shows to resounding audiences who had committed two full-lengths to memory. On paper, Ari Katz’s lyrics may not appear as if they would impact so many people that strongly, but there’s a reason the band isn’t named after him: Katz’s introspective stories are made to resonate by Dan Yemen’s and Pete Martin’s grinding guitar solos, Scott Golley’s pounding drums and Dave Palaitis’s trembling bass lines. After the band broke up in 1997, each member took different directions (marriage and new careers, but also various bands, including Zero Zero, Kid Dynamite and Paint It Black). But on Lifetime’s fourth full-length (and first on Dacaydance), they’ve picked up largely where they left off a decade ago with Jersey’s Best Dancers.
The album’s opening tandem delivers reassuring confirmation of that. In “Northbound Breakdown,” Katz says, “I hope you’re in your car right now, turning this shit up so loud . . . I hope you’re in the mood to tune it to my favorite station.” “Monday Morning Airport” is a melancholy tale about a relationship where “she’s gotta go in the morning, in the airport, and I know, she’s gotta go,” but like all Lifetime songs, it bounces with the band’s inspiring and jocular energy.
“Haircuts and T-Shirts,” “Records at Nite” and especially the minute-long “Song for Mel” catch the band adhering to the same hardcore agenda as it did with 1995’s Hello Bastards: Palaitis’s bass out in front, feedback echoing Katz’s wail, mosh-inspired finales. (And, like that album, Lifetime crams a lot into short runtime–this one’s eleven songs are over in about twenty-three minutes.) The subtle differences from their previous two albums are most evident in “Just a Quiet Evening,” “Can’t Think About It Now” and “All Nite Long,” where contrived choruses could be compared to bands that cite Lifetime as an influence, despite their own music being bland (Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday).
Lifetime would be remembered as a seminal influence on music had the band never recorded another song or played another show after 1997, but this reunion is a fair reward for fans. Although Lifetime contains a few lapses, the album serves as notice that New Jersey’s best dancers aren’t just taking a victory lap to collect their dues.