During its seven-year run, Lifetime released two seminal albums—1995's Hello Bastards and 1997's Jersey's Best Dancers—which grew more revered after the band broke up. At the time, Lifetime existed in a punk niche carved out by Gorilla Biscuits, but occupied by no one else: too melodic for hardcore and too punk for emo, but fast like hardcore and introspective like emo, without the obnoxious elements of either. Lifetime was an aberration, but the bands that followed in its wake—including a few who sold tons of records—eventually changed that. One high-selling acolyte is Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz, who coaxed a newly reunited Lifetime to record for the first time in a decade. As other reunited groups have discovered, it's a risky proposition. An odd peace follows death before your time; amend your legacy, and you could sully it forever.
That explains why Lifetime's new self-titled album sticks so closely to precedent. Lifetime recorded it in the same studio as its predecessors, again working with producer Steve Evetts, and like its past albums, the new one barely tops 20 minutes. That may seem conservative, but Lifetime simply stuck to what it knows—and does—best: fast, melodic punk with understated cleverness and surprising accessibility. Although the template holds firm, Lifetime has stronger pop instincts than its predecessors. "Airport Monday Morning" has a bouncy pop breakdown, "Song For Mel" has some oh-oh's worthy of Screeching Weasel, and the end of "Haircuts & T-Shirts," with its "you're the only one for me" coda, will be sung at shows by kids wearing Fall Out Boy shirts. However, Lifetime hardly seems like a cloying attempt to cash in on the style the band helped establish. Instead, it sounds like four friends revisiting the music that's in their blood. That simple joy makes their legacy safe for the foreseeable future.