Canton, Ohio-based alternative band Lovedrug is not new to the bipolar worlds that are indie and major label record companies. The band’s debut album Pretend You’re Alive has been re-released by Red Ink/Columbia after being first distributed two years ago by indie label The Militia Group. There is a stigma against bands getting signed by major labels after starting off in the indie world. Mainstream + Music = Not Good. Luckily for Lovedrug, getting a major label release just means original album reissuing and not original sound redoing.
Led by singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist Michael Shepard, Lovedrug — also David Owen (guitar), Matthew Depper (guitar, bass), and Matthew Putman (drums) — offers an album full of indie moods and pop melodies. Although for an indie album, the initial tracks are gloomier than most contemporary songs, let alone albums. The opening track “In Red” is the band’s most well-known (featured on the TV show Point Pleasant) and best song. It sets the band’s mood beyond the normal upbeat indie tempo. It’s a combination of chill and gloom that transfers to the next song “Black Out” in the form of emotiveness and gloom, albeit with a surprisingly haunting screaming melody (à la The Used).
Lovedrug doesn’t travel down the path of screamo pop, but merely dashes in a bit of its themes. The title song “Pretend You’re Alive” could easily have been overdone (like anything made by My Chemical Romance), but the band keeps the sound and tone at empathize-able levels, always maintaining its balance of tempo and vocals while never becoming dull. The band’s strength comes from its ability to produce calmness throughout many sound varieties. It goes through a Jane’s Addiction phase in “Pandamoranda” and a Thrills phase in “Down Towards The Healing.”
As the album progresses, the songs themselves ascend to more up-tempo beats. But surprisingly the gloomy themes still exist. “Monster” — despite its fast tempo — is about Shepard’s childhood nightmare involving a demon that steals children. He admits that sadness isn’t a popular theme in music, but insists that sadness is something that people can share: “Tapping into the feeling of sadness and melancholy is something everyone can identify with without being too overly cheesy about it.” Lovedrug deals with the kind of sadness that one thinks could be fixed by medicine in “Radiology.” Lyrics like “I’ll embrace the brewing thunder / and let it take me under” show how he can’t go on.
But throughout the gloom, the band somehow manages to stay optimistic. In “Candy,” despite his girlfriend being like a “snake in the water,” he still loves her, even complimenting the scars inflicted by her: “You’re so savage when you cut into my / beautiful infection.” In the end, positivity is Lovedrug’s true message. Yes, life isn’t all apples and peaches, but without sadness happiness couldn’t exist. And vice versa: without happiness Lovedrug wouldn’t exist.
Check out some Lovedrug videos:
“Spiders” – Windows Media
“Radiology” – Windows Media