Live Music (“live” rhyming with “give” not “dive”) is the powerful third LP by The Strange Boys. Veering away from the format of their previous releases, it was recorded in two parts: Side A in Texas and Side B in California. Surprisingly the album does not feel disjointed; instead the fresh environment leaves no room for filler as each half explores its own quality, conjoined by the band’s distinctive sound.

Side A of Live Music is filled with the big riffs, hooks and licks we expected of their 2010 album Be Brave having heard the title track. The slipping drip of introductory piano plunk in ‘Me and You’ is an inviting start, and it is soon gently joined by a distorted guitar lick; synonymous of their sound. The verses are enthusiastically animated but break down into a slow considered chorus via a more gainful guitar riff on the bridge. It immediately emanates a fuller sound than Be Brave but their trademark lo-fi production; enhanced by Ryan Sambol’s dishevelled vocals, is still strong.

The opening track fades to the merry skip in the step of ‘Walking Two By Two’, which is happily licked by crisp guitar and harmonica riffs. The beat mellows at the introduction of ‘Doueh’ and sits on an individual chord for its opening bars. The chord transition is delicious when it arrives and vocals jump in alongside; a second guitar plays freely over the top, pressing lightly and with an enormous sense of enjoyment and escape. One of the most inviting factors by this point in the album is the sense of release that playing together seems to have on these musicians.

‘Punk’s Pyjamas’ has a rolling drum beat reminiscent of the Black Lips but coupled with that same distinctive harmonica style that keeps rearing its head throughout Side A of Live Music. The turbulence of this becomes somewhat subdued for the delicate ‘You and Me’, which introduces a moment of down time and a brief sojourn in this first half with reverberating instrumentals and more tender vocals: “I’ll be as small as I can." This moment is short lived; however; as ‘Omnia Boa’ pulls back that same rolling twisting drum from before, rebuilding in a secret whisper, bluesy guitar bending around the beat. Side A comes to a close via the slower Goat’s Head Soup style blues of ‘Mama Shelter’ and the murky Ganglians-esque ‘Saddest’. The movement within Saddest towards this dark mysterious sound forms an easy bridge to Side B.

The production and style of the songs on Side B leads to much more intimate listening. It still has that end of the night feel that could be found on much of Be Brave but without falling into the drawl of a complete drunken stupor that seemed to take over in the past. The sound quality becomes incredibly lo-fi; echoes and gravelly edges show the signs of this side having been recorded in a distillery; ultimately resonating like a social performance in a cellar.

Side B carries a more melancholy and at times morbid vibe, although Sambol’s ragged enunciation makes it difficult to understand his lyrics at times. The music does; however; accentuate the lyrics that do shine through. In ‘My Life Beats Me’ the line “Sometimes you can hear the ticking of the clock” is followed by a repeated chord in an alarm-like fashion and ‘Over the River and Through The Woulds’ rides on a structure you might have expected from The Band; but with sombre lyrics such as "You can always get another dog but you can’t choose when it dies" swirling through your consciousness for days to come.

‘Right Before’ almost sinks to the level of dirge sometimes apparent in Be Brave but is rescued by an emotional piano part and a crescendo of fervour. The piano has real character in this half of the album and also sticks out on the penultimate track: ‘You Take Everything For Granite When You Are Stone’. This song stands as a strong final statement by The Strange Boys; but they finish instead with ‘Opus’ a disjointed and psychedelic last dance; perhaps a musical self-applause; but a well deserved one.

This is a much more accomplished album than The Strange Boys’ previous effort and feels more considered. The decision to give the title a specific pronunciation does not seem to matter as either form of “live” is applicable. The sense of freedom in the musicianship makes it feel as though these songs are probably different every time they are played and these recordings only exist because someone happened to turn on a microphone. It is true nonetheless that this sense of freedom and release in these tracks could not be emulated by people who do not live music. It is by no means a perfect album and it wouldn’t be right if it was: Live Music has true soul and it is the energy that comes from this which has the biggest impact on every listen.