Victory and Associates – Better Luck Next Life

written by: October 21, 2013
Album-art-for-Better-Luck-Next-Life-by-Victory-and-Associates Release Date:


Oakland-based punk band Victory and Associates has proudly declared that it aims to “simultaneously embrace the glorious and the foolish in rock and roll,” and the effort to make that contrast work is definitely evident in its sophomore release, Better Luck Next Life.

Unfortunately, the band plays around with so many moods and tones at once that it’s often difficult to tell exactly what it wants listeners to get out of each track and the album as a whole.

Compared to the band’s 2011 debut These Things Are The Facts, which was full of dynamic, gritty sounds and earnest, matter-of-fact lyrics, this new album feels a little too smooth and overproduced. Victory and Associates is still as loud as ever, but somehow feels a little muted and toned down at the same time.

The earnestness pulled off so skillfully on the first album falls flat on Better Luck Next Life and often comes off as more practiced than genuine.

The new album, produced by Toshi Kasai (Melvins, Federation X, Liars, Tool) kicks off on an extremely high, confident note, with the smooth punk anthem about self-sufficiency and independence, “We Have to Be Our Own Heroes.” It’s a catchy song, with a crooning, memorable chorus, but the tone and energy shifts awkwardly into the second track, “Ignore Button,” which laments the state of society in general.

“We got this freedom but this is what we do with this?” complains lead singer Conan Neutron, former frontman for the band Mount Vicious. “I’m disappointed, to put it lightly.” This is probably the grittiest song of the album, but it seems underdeveloped—it jerks around a lot musically, and the lyrics seem to be more half-focused images than complete thoughts and criticisms.

Some credit is due to the band for including Louis C.K. reference in the opening line of the fourth track, “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)” with the lyric, “We’ve got these phones! The signal goes up into space.” The line – a reference to C.K.’s joke about how absurd it is for people to get so frustrated with technology, considering how incredible it is – is a great start to a song that seems inspired by the comic’s regular rants about how the most privileged people seem to be the most miserable.

The chorus is extremely catchy and sticks in one’s head after a few plays, but the remainder of the track blends together musically, unaided by the blurry lyrics of the verses.

Still, there are definite lyrical and musical standouts. The band’s poppier, more upbeat tracks like “Exasperated, Inc.” and “Are We Having Fun Yet?”—which are often matched with darker, more pensive lyrics—are definitely the highlights of an album exploring opposing themes of optimism, self-sufficiency, and a frustration with aging, mortality, and the general state of things.

“It used to be beating the odds, now it’s beating the clock,” from “Exasperated, Inc.” is one of Better Luck Next Life‘s best lyrical lines, which returns near the end of the album in “A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention.”

Despite these highlights, it can be hard to tell from song to song whether the band is taking itself too seriously or too lightly.

On “For Serious,” which the band has said is about the defense of sincerity, the lyrics come off as more sarcastic than genuine.

Still, the album cover does feature the face of a glaring cat—a clever play on the “nine lives” idiom that suits the album title well. The record does possess many clever, self-aware moments—and was partially inspired by the fantastic show Party Down, so points for that—but these moments are far too fleeting to make a concrete impression.

However, at only three years in, the band is still fairly young, so if it can find a way to blend the sound of its first album with some of the intention and lyrics of the second, Victory and Associates might have some better luck next record.

Victory and Associates – Better Luck Next Life tracklist:

  1. “We’ll Have To Be Our Own Heroes”
  2. “Ignore Button”
  3. “Weightless And Pointless”
  4. “Everything’s Amazing (Nobody’s Happy)”
  5. “Exasperated, Inc.”
  6. “The End Of Memory”
  7. “For Serious”
  8. “Are We Having Fun Yet?”
  9. “A Cheeky Little Wish For Your Attention”
  10. “Taste The Danger”