Life and Times Suburban Hymns

Progressing by giant leaps on their debut full-length are Kansas City’s indie-proggers the Life and Times, Allen Epley’s post-Shiner band. 2003’s obtuse The Flat End of the Earth EP hardly hinted at Epley’s vision, but since he overhauled the trio — hiring ex-Ring, Cicada genius Eric Abert (bass/synths) and Stella Link’s Chris Metcalf (drums) — the new Suburban Hymns reaches his artistic nexus. The sure-fire hit of the season, opener "My Last Hostage,” resembles the wall of sound that made Oasis a household name circa "Wonderwall,” while the choruses of the equally majestic "Coat Of Arms” sound like late-career Stone Temple Pilots, despite the fact that Epley’s golden vocals are run through filters that cheapen the effect. Thanks to Metcalf’s Larry Mullen, Jr./Jason Gerken worship, "Charlotte St.” explores the War-era U2 side of mid-career Shiner, while the muffled electro-beats of "Muscle Cars” recall the more introspective Shiner before they kicked the can. "Skateland” and "Thrill Ride” reprise the U2 connection in even serener compositions, sparkling with Abert’s tasteful keys and Epley’s perfect vocal range. The aptly titled "Running Redlights” barrels through intersections like recent Traindodge, and "Mea Culpa” rocks outright like Riddle of Steel, ending with a Mellotron coda straight off of King Crimson’s 1969 debut. "Shift Your Gaze” and big-riff closer "A Chorus of Crickets” are as commensurate with emo-prog bliss as old Shiner fans can get. Produced by Jawbox’s J. Robbins and Shiner’s Paul Malinowski, and back on the DeSoto label (former home of Shiner), Suburban Hymns focuses more on the Life and Times’ lasting musicianship, as Epley has created one of the year’s most endearing albums. (DeSoto)