In 2020, the idea of a double album seems a bit overwhelming. A mix of having to devote every waking moment to politics while worrying about why we live in the only country in the world that clearly doesn’t understand how to survive a global pandemic has seemingly fried our collective attention span. All that in mind, who knew Low Cut Connie, a boisterous bar band from Philly with a 17-track double album would be the salve for our current times?
At first glance, Private Lives seems a bit unwieldy, but damn frontman/visionary/composer Adam Weiner’s blend of piano banging, staccato horns, and guitar isn’t the best argument yet for opting against going into a medically induced coma for the rest of the year. The album’s opening title track sets the tone perfectly with Weiner’s soul-soaked vocals over a steady drumbeat and hypnotic guitar line that sounds more than a little but like a modern makeover of fellow Philly natives Hall & Oates before moving into the mellower, slow build “Help Me.”
That one-two, upbeat followed by a slower song, sets the template for what follows, an album that vacillates between tempos and themes. While arguably the band’s most memorable moments over the past decade have been their most raucous moments, Weiner’s slowest track on Private Lives, “Look What They Did,” is quite possibly his best moment yet as a songwriter. Over cautious piano, he sings almost pleadingly about the depressed state of Atlantic City, with its shuttered casinos. He opens the track with “Tough shit for the little guy,” before going on to describe a city where the millionaires who profited off the area and made big promises they never intended to keep did just fine while leaving the locals were left jobless with a depressed city. “They built casinos in 1981, they said the whole freakin’ city’s gonna grow/Donald Trump made half a billion what have we got to show?” he sings as the strings start to swell behind him. And yes, the Springsteen comparisons are obvious, but also justifiable.
Not every track here fits though. The reserved “Quiet Time” just seems out of place, as does a song like the short, distorted track “Tea Time” both sandwiched between much stronger songs. But much more often than not, the double album is justified with so many tracks simply earning their right to be here thanks to infectious music and memorable songwriting. Private Lives is the perfect soundtrack to be playing as we decide whether to take it back from the racists and misogynists or just watch it burn to the ground.