There's nothing like a lack of success to put fear into a band. Take Living Things, for example. Their 2005 debut, Ahead of the Lions, was tough, aggressive hard punk produced by that avatar of indie cred Steve Albini, but apart from some good reviews, it didn't receive that much attention, so they decided to get ironic and Eurotrashy for their second album, Habeas Corpus -- a sound that doesn't quite fit with the album's stated attempt to chronicle Americana "from St. Louis through Chicago, New York City and London," but fits them better anyway. Try as they may -- and they do try, writing lyrics based on headlines that flit through their RSS feeds -- Living Things aren't a deep band: they're pastiche poseurs, sneering about Mercedes Marxists in a manner that suggests there's nowhere they'd rather be than cruising down Melrose in that very Mercedes. Fortunately, Living Things' half-baked political sloganeering is buried underneath hip retro synths (the stiff riffs and surging chorus of "Oxygen" suggesting nothing so much as the Killers), stupid stomping glam beats cut up on a computer, and straightened-out sleaze rock -- all cut with a bit of a narcotic hazy drone borrowed from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club who borrowed it from the Jesus and Mary Chain. Despite the catch phrases and recycled riffs, nothing about Habeas Corpus is authentic -- it's all trashy punk that trivializes anything it touches -- but what's fun about it is that Living Things do it all without a sense of awareness: they don't know how silly they are, so they wind up with a record that amounts to a guilty pleasure for a time when nobody feels any guilt about anything.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine