When the East Coast hardcore scene reached a temporary dead end in the early 90s, a five-piece from New Jersey broke away and laid waste to the genre’s restrictive rule book. No-one, however, could have guessed that the results would unconsciously birth pop punk as we know it today.
They reinvented themselves on their third full-length album, Hello Bastards. Seamlessly tying together punk, hardcore and emo, the nine-track effort is notable for its lyrical content. Leaving behind the already stale, tough guy posturing of bands like New Yorkers 25 Ta Life, the band concentrated on personal topics, like the complexities of relationships and growing up. This was during a period when ‘emo’ referred to the visceral feelings conveyed by bands such as Washington, D.C.’s Rites Of Spring and Seattle’s Sunny Day Real Estate several years later. With lovelorn lyrics like, ‘This time it’s not worth fighting, I think I really like you’, from Bobby Truck Tricks and, ‘Wait for me, I just need a bit of time ‘cause I can wait for you’, from Irony Is For Suckers, Lifetime wrote anthems for the disgruntled hardcore fan and the hopeless romantic.
Hardcore, however, is undeniably the foundation to Lifetime’s sound. The band – Ari Katz (vocals), Dan Yemin (guitar), Pete Martin (guitar), Dave Palaitis (bass) and Scott Golley (drums) – channel the explosive energy of Minor Threat and Gorilla Biscuits throughout the half-hour effort. Yemin and Martin’s guitar tone stays true to the aggressive nature of the genre, but overall, the music is less threatening and more mindful of melody. It’s complemented, too, by Katz’ infectious vocal delivery which hints towards the snotty, belligerent tones of garage punks Screeching Weasel, while the songwriting relies heavily on the straight rock techniques of New York’s Jawbreaker and Minnesota’s Hüsker Dü. In fact, the latter’s It’s Not Funny Anymore – a song from their 1983 mini-album Metal Circus – is covered on this album. Lifetime stumbled on a simple formula which gathered the divergent paths of underground American punk and created a classic album.
Twenty years ago, ‘Generation MTV’ witnessed the sudden rise of bands like Green Day and The Offspring. Over a matter of months, they went from playing small, dingy clubs to plush theatres, flying the flag for a new wave of American punk rock. Yet despite all of their mainstream success, these musical juggernauts never came close to wielding the influence Lifetime has had on today’s pop punk elite.
Following their split in 1997, a collection of bands emerged, built on that emotive hardcore sound and injected it with more melody. Acts including Saves The Day and New Found Glory were the first to find success. They were followed by bands like Thursday, The Movielife and Fall Out Boy – bassist Pete Wentz signed Lifetime to his label Decaydance Records when they briefly reformed 10 years later. Founding member Dan Yemin firmly remains in today’s hardcore scene, fronting Philadelphia’s Paint It Black.