The Electric Lungs
Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made
A lot of churches today have a clashing musical lineup: electric-guitar-and-drums rock songs for the Lord’s newbies, and a smattering of organ and upright piano standards to please the old folks.
If a group of dudes broke into one of those churches at midnight purely for the sake of rebellion and to make sinister punk-pop on the smorgasbord of instruments, it would sound like the Electric Lungs’ latest Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made.
The Electric Lungs formed in 2012 when Action Figure members Tripp Kirby, Marc Bollinger, and Eric Jones decided to make a new band with an added element. They searched for a lead guitarist, but ultimately chose a different direction by welcoming keys player Jason Ulanet, who was ready to embrace their quick hooks and catchy choruses, plus contribute a haunted-church organ vibe.
The band's 2013 debut, Simplified and Civilized, had manic punk tempos and gruesome lyrics but didn't use Ulanet to his full potential. That's been corrected on Don’t Be Ashamed of the Way You Were Made.
The Electric Lungs will frustrate those who prefer straightforward storytelling with obvious themes. More open-minded listeners who appreciate weirdness will stay for the band's raucous church service, even standing up to dance before it's over, as Kirby questions whether he's nuclear waste and details his fake disease of being "fatally pleased."
Dark poetic choruses add intrigue to songs that aren't easy to understand. On “Surgical Malfunction,” Kirby sings, in a voice resembling the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis but with more angst and speed, “I am the antichrist before he went bad/Because of surgical Malfunction/I’m the amputated limb that you feel." It’s not the most relatable line, but like a venting friend, Kirby’s conversational style provokes an approving head nod.
“He Was Alive” begins explosively with the announcement that the song’s protagonist just died, and may or may not have been a stuffed animal living in a toy claw machine. A hectic electric organ races along with minor guitar chords and drums at breakneck speed. “Do you see this emergency?” Kirby repeats over and over in the chorus. It’s hard to decipher what the emergency is, but the song’s energy is addicting enough to keep listening and moving.
But the album isn't just punk. Ulanet opens its first track, the anthem-rock "Do You Wanna Know," with a siren-style synthesizer melody soon joined by Jones' power drumming; "Circling the Cage" sounds bluesy, and then the record barrels into the rockabilly "Surgical Malfunction." The genre-bending feels original and flows seamlessly thanks to the musicians' crisp, intense playing.
They might have broken into church, but the resulting mish-mash earns the Electric Lungs forgiveness.
Hannah Copeland is an announcer and arts contributor at KCUR. Follow her on Twitter @hannaecopeland.