"It's not our job to sell records," states soft-spoken Lit frontman A. Jay Popoff. "Our job is to write good songs and kick ass live. If we're not doing that, then we've failed." Well, if that's the case, then Lit is right on the mark based on their latest and fourth self-titled studio album. The new album is a little startling as it takes the witty, punk inspired band to places they've never been before.

The Orange County, California-based band led by Popoff - accompanied by his brother Jeremy on guitars, Kevin Baldes on bass, and Allen Shellenberger on drums - have been together nearly 15 years. Maybe that's why new songs, although stripped down and back to basics, possess an intimacy never captured by these modern rock favorites. Everything revolving around the new album is straightforward from the simple black and silver album cover to the lack of an album title, perhaps in an attempt at getting the music heard without distractions. The result is their best album to date.

Lit's first album, A Place In the Sun, rocketed them into the charts with infectious songs like “My Own Worst Enemy” and “Miserable,” but the album as a whole felt a little disjointed. While their second and third albums didn't smash up any charts, they were still decent albums that continued to sell and were accompanied by endless worldwide touring (see Lit live if you get the chance, they put on a great show).

Today, their latest album stands as a stalwart piece of evolution. It opens with “Too Fast For A U-Turn,” which is an unmistakable rock ‘n' roll anthem. “Looks Like They Were Right,” the single, is more in the vein of Elvis Costello and is extremely poppy and fun. “Needle & Thread” is classic Lit, while “Times Like This” shows a darker side to the band (David Campbell, Beck's father did the strings on the song). The best track on the album is “Forever Begins Right Now.” It's a perfect blend of Beatles' pop sensibility with distorted, crunching guitars. It's upbeat and gets stuck in your bobbing head. “Lullaby” brings the tempo down a bit with a sweet mostly-acoustic song written for Popoff's son. Another of the highlights on this album is the amped up cover of the Cure's “Pictures of You.” While the song is very faithful to the original, Lit has definitely put their own signature on the song, adding crunching guitars and a distorted lead alongside Popoff's straining vocals.

The album closes out with “Bulletproof,” a song about a friend of the band who committed suicide. Once again this song illustrates Lit's ability to delve into dark, meaningful places on this album unlike where they have been willing to go to in the past. Even though the subject matter of this song is about as brooding a subject as can be breached, the song and the album end on a optimistic and hopeful note, “Here we are / We're all alright, we're all alright.” Lit have come into their own with this new album, and it deserves to be heard.

- Spencer Robinson
July 19, 2004