No Past No Present No Future
By Last Lights
Released April 28, 2009
1. There’s No One Good Enough to be Alone
2. Oh, Modern World
3. The Shape of Scum to Come
4. Everybody’s Working for the Weak End
5. U.S. Out of New England
6. The Dream Homes of Insomniacs
7. No Future (The Children’s Crusade)
8. Love + Rent
9. The Bourgeois Blues
10. Destroy What Destroys You
No Past No Present No Future media
No Past No Present No Future reviews
Sometimes, bands make me want to throw up my hands. With LAST LIGHTS, it's in the best way. No Past No Present No Future, is the band's discography, bookended by an instrumental written after the band's singer passed away in late 2008 (the tragic result of a live performance accident). LAST LIGHTS channels feelings of personal agitation in a similar manner to that mastered by former Boston-area artists THE SUICIDE FILE and GIVE UP THE GHOST. Short declarative statements, with a couple important words twisted to great lyrical effect push around roaring guitars and manic percussion. Instead of the lyrics being about intimate romantic relationships, they're about the relationship of the path-breaking individual to society, and while these are not new revelations or new topics, the sheer amount of energy that is put into the compositions and performances makes it feel new and dangerous all over again. Unlike the YEAH YEAH YEAHS, No Past No Present No Future is a real blitz, one that has rage, frustration, catharsis and authenticity coming out of its pores. Its impact will be felt, not just on your eardrums, but in the hardcore scene for years to come.
When Last Lights opened for Four Year Strong at BU Central on December 5th, 2008, the band was celebrating their signing to blossoming punk label Think Fast! just two days prior, and singer Dominic Mallary was as energetic as ever, hurling himself about on the stage, screaming his lungs out and twisting the microphone cord around his neck, as he did nearly every show. A few hours later, his health began rapidly spiraling downwards, as he lost feeling in his legs and eventually convulsed in seizures after being taken to the hospital where he lost consciousness. Some 15 hours after performing what would be his final set, the last lights went out for Dominic Mallary, dying of a brain aneurysm before he could witness the full fruition of all his hard work and talent. Though the band decided not to go on without Dominic, their recent contract with Think Fast! allowed them a proper sendoff, giving widespread release to their entire discography consolidated onto one album. From their initial self-released demos to their Bad Habit split and Mightier than Sword seven-inch, there’s no lulls or shifts in intensity; the collection is as seamless as if it had been cut in one clean studio swoop. What Last Lights is able to do in 11 songs is rare. They don’t necessarily walk a line between the old school and the new school of hardcore, but they pull in the better elements of both and create something that’s as fascinating as it is raw and intense. Patches of short, fast Black Flag or Minor Threat riffs crop up (“Everybody’s Working for the Weak End,” “U.S. Out of New England”) to demonstrate the band’s sense of history, but co-mingle with discordant clashes of melody more reminiscent of Modern Life Is War or Bane. But what really solidifies Last Lights’ well-deserved recognition is the grimy, defiantly realist poetry of Mallary swimming in and out of the band’s damaging hardcore melee. Mallary graduated from Emerson College in 2007. After one scan through the lyrics booklet of No Past No Present No Future, it’s hardly surprising that he focused his studies on writing, literature and publishing. Troubled by the wretched, creeping normalcy of modern society, burnt out on suburban blight and the false promise of the American dream, Mallary paints a bleak picture of the youth of recent past: “I was raised by radio waves in my parents’ separate homes / While our future was mortgaged for the down payment on a war of our own” (“No Future”); “These days are spent trading in cheap white lies / I’ll paint them black and call it a night / I tried but the light was never enough / This life could be the death of us” (“Destroy What Destroys You”). There's even the occasional homage buried in the lesson, as the Clash is quickly referenced twice in “Love + Rent”: “He who fucks nuns later joins the church / In the sad small town where fascism sells / The youth have hope, but give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves from wedding bells.” “Oh, Modern World” showcases one of the best single lines in recent hardcore memory (“Hey, hey, hey humanist: your Holy Grail is a cup of piss”) but it slightly loses its allure the eighth time it’s repeated. The only track exclusive to this disc is the instrumental “Sink.” Recorded in January of 2009 after Mallary’s passing, it’s pretty good for an instrumental hardcore song, but is clearly missing the key element of Last Lights’ greatness. Though lead singer Dominic Mallary is gone and missed, No Past No Present No Future is a stirring encapsulation of his legacy. Graced, with the hauntingly lush artwork of Tim Brothers and a lyrics booklet of complete with photos of Mallary and the band at their finest, it makes it all that much more of a shame that Think Fast! is abandoning compact discs, because no digital package will be able to capture the feelings that complement the music in this way. But to give gratitude where it’s due, Dominic’s final goodbye is in fine form with this release.
"Massachusetts is a coffin / I was born in a corpse" Being from Massachusetts, I've had the pleasure of seeing a lot of great hardcore bands come from the Bay State. Some of them go on to nation- or world-wide recognition, while others never make it out of local VFW halls. Last Lights, a band based out of Worcester, seemed destined for the former. The ferocious quintet formed in the summer of 2008, releasing a demo, a self-titled 7", and a split 7" with Bad Habit later in the year. The band was making quite a buzz in the local scene with their intense live shows. They had the passion, dedication, and raw talent that many bands lack. "My generation was born controlled / Hope I die before I get sold" Tragedy struck on December 5, 2008 when vocalist, lyricist, and primary songwriter Dominic Mallary abruptly passed away as the result of complications from Last Lights' previous night's performance. His untimely death at the age of 24 was undeniably tragic, but he lived life passionately and died doing what he loved. Following his passing, Think Fast! Records, the label with which the band had just signed, announced that they would release this, a discography album entitled No Past, No Present, No Future. The album combines the band's ten previously released songs with a new instrumental track recorded by the remaining members in January of 2009 as a tribute to the fallen frontman. "Fuck you, I don't agree with a life lived less than free" Mallary's poetically nihilistic, socially-conscious lyrics read like lines out of Fight Club. He sings about his disdain for the world around him, be it dead-end jobs, crime on the streets, or society in general. One thing is made clear through his words: Mallary lived his live by his own rules and did so passionately. I don't mean to focus solely on Mallary, but even if he hadn't passed away, this review would be very much the same. He truly made Last Lights what they were with his heartfelt lyrics and vicious delivery, while the band backed him with fittingly aggressive, punk-influenced hardcore music. Sonically, the band is not a far cry from classic hardcore/punk bands such as Black Flag and Minor Threat. "The lack of feeling is also a feeling / but don't press my face to the floor and call it a ceiling" Some say that the greatest hardcore bands only release one album before breaking up and falling into obscurity. In that respect, No Past, No Present, No Future will undoubtedly be the Last Lights' swan song among those lucky enough to discover it. It's truly a shame that the band was only able to record about twenty minutes of material, because this showcases just how impressive they were. If the band was this good six months after forming, one can only imagine what they would be like a couple years down the road. Although Mallary is no longer with us, he will forever live on through his words and music. I believe that's exactly how he would have wanted it. "This is my prayer: no past, no present, no future"
April 28, 2009
Echo Room Productions
Ian Van Opijnen and Last Lights
New Alliance East
Vinyl version licensed to Mightier Than Sword Records