Quite simply, this has to be one of the best musical gifts I've ever recieved -- a gift given to me by my own ability to somehow go out on a limb and purchase a CD by a band who, through my own (naively) collected knowledge, seemed to be on a downhill climb since their hugely popular 'Throwing Copper' in 1994. Oh my goodness how I'm glad I went ahead and bought "The Distance to Here". To be honest, the thing that catapulted me into getting the album was my familiarity with the single 'The Dolphin's Cry', of which I had remembered (and liked) from when the album was released... It was to a great surprise, then, that 'The Dolphin's Cry' proved to be (almost) the weakest song on the disc.
This is basically 56 minutes of beautifully written alternative/arena-rock music, with absurdly catchy and memorable hooks, totally captivating guitar work, varied instrumentation with clever electronic dabbings here and there, and an overall melodic style and energy that is more akin to 'Throwing Copper' than Live's previous release, 'Secret Samadhi'. It's a much cleaner sound than we're used to, and clearly heavier on the production side -- I 'suppose', more "commercial" or "mainstream" could be vaguely accurate -- and, because of this, feels quite a bit less connected to the listener emotionally than 'TC' (and a much lesser extent, 'SS'), but quite frankly I don't mind this at all. 'TC' was an intelligent and emotional experience that I latched onto; 'Distance' is an oft intelligent listen but it's emotional core seems to be a bit more fabricated, and generally doesn't do a whole lot for me (the concluding two songs being an exemplary exception). Yet, while it might seem like I'm complaining, I actually do not mind this one bit, and find the music just as captivating despite its inability to really connect with me at a deep personal level. It's strange, but entirely true -- I actually prefer the "lack" of emotion or (no pun intended) emotional 'distance' the music produces.
There are so many highlights. "Run to the Water" is a hugely inspiring, fantastic ballad; "Sun", with its fast tempo, recalls many songs on TC; "Where the Fishes Go" hypnotizes with its unique and eerie soundscape; "The Children's Song", which brings with it a brilliant use of the slide guitar, soars; "Meltdown", a perfectly produced, complex song that hits all the right notes; "They Stood Up For Love", an admittedly cheesy but undeniably addicting ballad; "Dance With You", a sincere and yearning ballad that concludes the album with class...
It's just great music, friends. I have listened to it so many times and it and I'm utterly enticed every time I listen to it. It is, officially, one of my favorite CD's, right alongside Radiohead's 'OK Computer', U2's 'The Joshua Tree', and Sunny Day Real Estate's 'Diary' (just naming a few so you can get an idea of my tastes). Lyrically, it can't hold a candle to 'Throwing Copper', but the fact that the lyrics are by-and-large mediocre is a testament to 'The Distance to Here''s musical goodness. Live would fumble with 'V' just 2 years later, and I'm not quite sure how 'Birds of Pray' turned out yet, but as far as I'm concerned this is them at the top of their game.
It's a diamond in the rough. Please do yourself a favor and get it.