Ahead Of The Lions is the full-length album debut from the rock 'n' roll group called Living Things. It is a band of brothers: Lillian, Eve, and Bosh Berlin. Born and raised in the socially conservative St. Louis suburbs, they've been playing together since their hands were big enough to hold instruments, which gives their angst-ridden roar an organic relentlessness.
In the early years, their father had a job laying carpet under the attractions at traveling carnivals and the whole family would accompany him around the country. The boys formed a three-piece--Lillian on guitar and vocals, Eve on bass, Bosh on drums--and spent summers gigging in parking lots next to the Ferris wheel. The main attraction was Bosh, a kindergartner dressed in an Angus Young-style schoolboy uniform pushing the songs along at 170 beats per minute.
Lillian, the band's singer, lyricist, guitarist, and chief provocateur, wrote, and still writes, the band's lyrics. "Books, history, and billboards are what inspire me to pick up my tape recorder and write a song," he says, citing such influences as Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Carroll, Nick Cave, William S. Burroughs, Henry Miller, Michael Moore, Sylvia Plath, Allen Ginsberg, William Blake, Anne Sexton--and CNN.
School was not a comfortable environment for such a stubbornly free spirit. His brain alienated but otherwise clear, Lillian insisted on reading books that weren't assigned, refused to read books that were assigned, and by junior high was generally acting out. He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and prescribed Ritalin and Prozac, which he recalls in his forthcoming book, Post Mortem Bliss (Apocrypha Press).
"My mother ultimately said no to the drugs," says Lillian. "She didn't believe in it. But there's this heaping amount of mood-altering drugs prescribed to kids--something like 1.5 million of them. And the FDA didn't even approve Prozac for children until 2003. It's making kids even more depressed and suicidal than they already were. How can society put the blame for high school violence on music or lifestyle when so many of the students are hooked on pills? It's crack for kids. It's part of the dumbing-down of the generation coming up, what I call 'the blackout generation.'"
Home wasn't much easier than school for the Berlin brothers. "We'd get grounded all the time for beating each other up," says Eve. "Our parents would send us to the basement because we'd ruin the upstairs, punching holes in the wall and sh-t. We didn't have anything to do down there except take out our instruments and jam." Ultimately, they turned their tribal force toward escaping the suburban wasteland of their Maryland Heights neighborhood--but with a point of view, a desire to provoke debate on political and social issues.
Living Things released an EP, Turn In Your Friends And Neighbors (DreamWorks), in March of 2003. It was followed later that year by a 10-inch vinyl EP, released in the U.K., titled The Blackout Generation (Loog). Both were recorded in Chicago by Steve Albini (Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Pixies). The group teamed again with Albini for Ahead Of The Lions, which was tracked and mixed in St. Louis, Chicago, and Stockholm.
During the past two years Living Things have crisscrossed the U.S. and Europe, opening for bands as diverse as Velvet Revolver, the Libertines, Melissa Auf der Maur, and the Vines. Along the way they picked up Corey Becker, a friend from St. Louis, to add additional guitar on the road.