A second-tier but still widely observed rock tradition is the post-breakup live album, in which a band decides to release a collection of concert recordings as a final gesture to the fans after throwing in the towel. While they were hardly the sort of band to play by the Big League rule book, now that Scott Miller has decided to retire the Loud Family, he's added a final chapter to the story with From Ritual to Romance, assembled from recordings of two late-period Loud Family gigs (one from 1996, the other from 1998; the former features a lineup that was never documented in the studio). While conventional wisdom often had it that the Loud Family picked up the banner of smart and hooky indie pop where Miller's previous band, Game Theory, had left it, a more than passing listen to the Loud Family catalog reveals a band much harder, more angular, and more willing to experiment than Game Theory, and From Ritual to Romance makes it clear this band was willing to up the ante on all counts onstage. Given the difficulty of capturing the band's more delicate and layered material onstage, the Loud Family seemed to respond by turning up the amps and hitting harder, and From Ritual to Romance captures a band far more bracingly physical than you might expect (and these tapes give Scott Miller's underappreciated guitar work a greater showcase than he allowed himself in the studio). And this album refuses to play itself out as a "Greatest Loud Family Hits Live" set; From Ritual to Romance chronicles what made this band difficult for passing observers, as much as what made them so appealing to fans, and this is a gesture to Loud Family fans in the best sense. It's that rare live album that's as dense and demanding as a studio set, and one that also rewards a careful listen.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming