Everyone knows Boston is a mecca for musicians, but few have heard of the nearby city of Lowell, just to the northwest. The place is a bastion for independent artists. Fans of The Pixies know it as the place where Live From The Fallout Shelter was recorded back in ‘86. Bibliophiles would recognize it as the birthplace of Jack Kerouac. Throughout the years, it’s remained a haven for people who thrive in the fringe. People like the members of Inspector 34.
I met them a few years ago when they were passing through New York on tour. Frontman Jimm Warren and his band of merry misfits shook things up at our funky little community space. They gave off a hippy indie folk vibe, but their music was tight. This wasn’t some shtick. These guys could play.
Fast forward to the present day. While everyone has been finding their own ways to cope with current events, the members of Inspector 34 were funneling their creative energy into a full-length album. Lest you think Love My Life is full of romantic ballads, one glance at the cartoon engulfed in flames on the cover would immediately disavow you of that notion.
On first listen, the experimental nature of the music can be a little overwhelming. It’s a roller coaster of a journey. There are wild cacophonies that make the more ambient segments seem almost nihilistic in comparison. Think Joy Division meets Weird Al on the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. It’s crazy, but somehow it works.
On second and third listen, it’s easier to pick out the lyrical themes and musical motifs that weave through this work. The tracks tracks “Love,” “My,” and “Life” present interludes between acts. The repeating mantra “I love my life, everything is wonderful” cleanses the palate and preps the listener for the next course. There is indeed method in the madness.
I didn’t expect to find one album that so encapsulates the past year, but Love My Life fits the bill. I’m still peeling back the layers. There’s a lot to unpack here.
“Everybody” is a stream-of-consciousness commentary on social interaction these days, when everyone’s live-streaming play-by-play narratives of the banalities of their lives:
“I know all the people in the world each and every single person in the whole entire world and me and them are all hanging out at the same time and you can see what we’re doing we all can see exactly what each other’s doing and sit and wonder what we’re gonna do next what are you doing?”
Probably the most mainstream song on the album is “The Gray House.” If you like indie punk, this one’s right up your alley. With driving guitar riffs and gang vocals along with super catchy la da da da’s, I’m betting this will be the fan favorite when they get to take these songs on the road. Never mind that it’s a song about existential dread while the world is crumbling all around, and grasping for a reason to hold onto hope. It’s fun to sing along to.
Another song on this album that really spoke to me was “Thick Bologna.” In a recent interview, the members of Inspector 34 reveal that it is simply a song about running out of cheap bologna from the local chain store. Even Freud said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. But I think there is license for the listener to interpret this as a song about longing for any enjoyable thing they are missing. The day my Keurig broke during quarantine, I probably could have written prose in such detail and description as to rival Nabokov’s meditation on a pencil stub in Transparent Things. Inspector 34 turned running out of bologna into a fat-riffed lament.
Overall, I find the album a cathartic experience. It’s both a poignant social commentary and an experiment in amalgamations of sound. It’s something you can zone out to in the psychedelic parts, and howl along with in the noisy dissonant parts. It’s dark, but in a satirical way. It’s a road map for getting through these chaotic times. And when all is said and done, and the crisis is over, Lowell is the #1 place I’d like to travel. Seeing Inspector 34 play live in their hometown is the newest addition to my bucket list.
You can find Love My Life at select record shops across the country. It’s also available for purchase digitally or on vinyl at Bandcamp. Or stream on Spotify. Follow Inspector 34 for updates and news.