God Lives Underwater
Up Off The Floor
Dave Reilly and Jeff Turzo started work on what was to be God Lives Underwater’s swan song sometime in 1998. Things were looking up. They had just released the moderately successful Life In the So-Called Space Age, which sold over 90,000 copies and spawned a good-sized hit with the single “From Your Mouth.” The video for the track was in rotation on MTV.
And then things pretty much went to shit. In 2000, their record label, 1500/Riffage, went bankrupt, leaving their unfinished album in a huge legal mess that would take years to work out. About a week later, Reilly’s fiancée was killed in a tragic accident.
It obviously hasn’t been an easy trek for the band, or for this record. And yet, miraculously, over 5 years later, here it is. Originally released online in MP3 format a few years back to a small but rabid fan base, it’s good to see their heart-felt efforts finally get a proper release.
You don’t have to appreciate 1990s industrial rock to enjoy GLU’s music — although it certainly helps. In truth, Reilly and Turzo’s discography is probably closer in many ways to Depeche Mode than it ever was to NIN, although there are parallels to be made to both of those artists, as well as to their like-minded peers in Stabbing Westward. At the heart of things, the GLU guys have always been solid pop entrepreneurs with an ear for crafting what are essentially catchy pop tracks dressed up in grungy hard rock angst and electronica.
There are really two types of songs on Up Off The Floor: Electro-rock staples that have a clear lineage to GLU’s previous efforts like “1% (The Long Way Down)” and “Slip To Fall,” and the more subtle, stripped-down material like “Positivity.” For me, it’s always been the former category that made GLU’s music unique and initially attracted me to albums like 1995’s Empty. But now, somehow, I find myself drawn to these new pop songs, particularly the heart-felt simplicity of “Whatever You’ve Got” (written about the death of Reilly’s fiancée ) and “Miss You More Than Anything.”
Although some of the best songs of GLU’s career are on this record, as an album, Up Off The Floor can’t help but have its share of problems. One thing that’s immediately obvious is the rather poor sound quality. In fact, I swear that the MP3s I downloaded all those years ago actually sounded better than this. Very strange. More important, the album suffers from being badly paced and uneven. As much as I would have enjoyed finding some of the harder-edged songs on a previous album, they almost seem out of place abutting the simpler, more somber numbers. These songs really feel like they should be the focus, given their emotional weight. I mean, it’s really something to hear Reilly’s voice upstage the synthesizers for the first time in the band’s history, as if he’s made the sudden realization that it’s the only instrument he has to convey the depths of personal and professional hell into which he’s plummeted. It’s sad, it’s moving, and then we’re rocking out. It’s odd.
Despite these failings, some of the tracks here are just too good to pass up if you’re a GLU diehard. Although, if you have a choice between picking up this album or seeing Reilly do a solo acoustic show, you’ll certainly want to choose the latter. If you’re lucky, he’ll recycle some of the best bits from this outing and do them infinitely more justice with an acoustic guitar than he could in a studio with any number of synthesizers at his disposal.
Is Up Off The Floor a perfect album? No. But it is an essential album for any fan of God Lives Underwater, without a doubt. Thanks to Megaforce and Locomotive for finally giving it the release it deserved. RIP 1500.