American collective establish a fresh beat for themselves in this fickle existence.
A rollercoaster car on the cover of 2016’s "Hold On... Life Is Calling" should have been a warning for those who thought Billy Livesay had reached the peak of his creativity and there was the only route from there: down. Yet of course, there’s a new apex on the veteran’s life trajectory, with one of this record’s songs stating that “it would be a crying shame if we don’t ride this train another mile” and the rest of the album’s tracks delivering thrills in spades. “The Rhythm Of Love And Dysfunction” may demonstrate a harder edge than the ensemble’s previous efforts but their melodies are blinding enough to blur the border between reality and reveries, as the colored lines of its artwork suggest.
And if that’s not the next warning, the honeyed swagger of “There’s Something Coming Now” will whet the listener’s appetite by leading them from a barroom to doomsday and letting lies pave the way, while piano boogie and guitar dirge paint it all red. Still, the infectious groove of “Let It Flow” calls for a different night on the town where organ-oiled regret and remorse get drenched in sweet vocal harmonies and wah-wah wail. It’s there that the sadness of “Better Than He Ever Was” resides – in the neon crossfire of Tim Murphy and Victor Berrios’s ivories – until the acoustically-tinctured, Latinesque lace of “That’s The Trouble With Love” lights up the horizon.
The quintet didn’t bid farewell to a punchy Americana of yore, so “When I Dream” swells with Jorge Laplume’s bass and “Better Than You” takes a bluegrass strum to the fore, yet Livesay and co add nuanced bombast to Don Henley’s “Heart Of The Matter” and reinvent Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” as an acid-spiked raga. On the other end of emotional spectrum, the roaring blues behind “The Rhythm Of Love” drives the piece’s panache towards a pleasuredome, and only the anxious “Book Of Rules” and “Can I Have (What You Have)?” hark back to the band’s erstwhile heavy rock leanings – with a twist. The American collective expand their scope on this album, which must mean another mile will lead them to another high.