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“Lifetime came from the New Brunswick, NJ, punk and hardcore scene that yielded bands like Bouncing Souls and Thursday. The difficult and less-than-legal status of basement shows made for a tight-knit DIY scene that took its ideals very seriously. And while Lifetime often got lumped in with the scene that raised them, the band broke away from the mold of their hardcore cohort, yet had a hard time finding a large enough audience outside of their scene-specific world to support them.
Lifetime ended on an anticlimactic note. Over the course of their seven-year run, the New Jersey hardcore band had released two albums, Background and Hello Bastards, before dropping their parting gift, 1997’s Jersey’s Best Dancers. As they closed one chapter by walking away, they inadvertently opened another by unleashing the pop punk sound into the emo cosmos, shaping an entire genre for years to come. What made Lifetime stand out from any other hardcore or punk band with melodic hooks and passionate lyrics? To many, Jersey’s Best Dancers may sound like nothing more than a pop punk album rooted in hardcore. Songs like “Bringing it Backwards” or “How We Are” certainly follow the melodic hardcore formula, but it’s the nuances and moments of ardent vulnerability that differentiate this from other hardcore albums of their time. “Theme for a New Brunswick Basement Show” is perhaps the most glaring example of a song responsible for setting Lifetime apart. On it, vocalist Ari Katz tells a story about sitting next to the girl of his dreams at a basement show and wonders if she could take the place of the current object of his heartbreak. The lyrics aren’t cryptic or hard to decipher. And it’s the willfully naive and direct delivery that made for a novel approach to punk poetry, one that became a sort of emo curriculum for years to come. The remnants of this school of emo would be glaringly apparent years later in mega-anthems like Panic At The Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” or Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar, We’re Going Down.” The list is endless. It’s impossible to listen to Taking Back Sunday’s “Cute Without The E” and not hear their blueprint from start to finish.
In fact, it’s arguable that there are few, if any, 24-minutes stretches of recorded music more important to shaping an entire industry than the 12 songs on Jersey’s Best Dancers.”