Thomas Link makes meat and potatoes rock & roll. The songs on Do it in the Name of Love are not fancy pants art rock songs. Instead, Link, who performs under the stage name Mister Link, sings it just like it is, without a whole lot of aural frills.
The plus side to this approach is that there isn’t too much mystery to figure out. Link doesn’t stretch metaphors to the breaking point. There aren’t a whole bunch of complicated analogies to figure out. For instance, this album’s title track skips any beating around the bush and suggests that by doing what we ought to do in the name of love should be more than motivation enough. Then with “Photoshop Girlfriend,” Link considers the extreme artificiality in our culture.
Many of these songs also speak to social issues. Racism is shot down on “Color Blind,” while hunger is spoken of with “Jesus Wasn’t Hungry.”
One of this album’s coolest songs is Link’s cover of “Sixteen Tons.” In its original form, this old country song pounded along to the beat of a hammer. However, Link’s new take swings with a bluesy shuffle. It features a really funky guitar strum and a jazzy vocal. The song’s lyric has always remained relevant, as it talks about how our very souls are seemingly enslaved to our jobs. It even finds the woebegone narrator apologizing to Saint Peter, telling him he can’t enter heaven because he owes his soul to the company store. There’s nothing wrong with loving the jobs we do, but loyalty should only go so far. Jobs take a lot of our time, which is only fair, but when they start to control our lives, we indeed feel like we’ve lost our souls. The ‘company store’ is also a harsh taskmaster, as we find ourselves ‘another day older and deeper in debt.’
Link shows his wide stylistic range with “Swingin Christmas,” which is recorded much like a big band song. It features a bopping rhythm, Count Basie-esque piano and a full on horn section. It is clear Link listened to his share of jazzy Christmas albums because he name-drops folks like Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. Best of all, this kind of music succeeds at bringing out the pure joy of the season. For some reason, many contemporary artists think it’s really hip to create melancholy, melodramatic holiday songs for all their hipster fans. However, if you can’t find joy in a holiday season, maybe you shouldn’t write songs about it in the first place.
Although Link does his best to sing expressively, he does have some vocal limitations. He doesn’t always have a voice that’s pleasant on the ears. In fact, his singing comes off harsh instead of melodic and soft. He can’t help this, as he must make do with what he’s born with. But it’s sometimes a little trying to get through songs such as “Bionic Man,” which feel like barely disguised lectures put to a beat.
What ultimately saves Link’s work is his intelligent songwriting. He has some interesting ideas, and with songs that address hot topics the way war is sung about during “Tin Soldier,” he has so much more on his mind than just impressing the girls. His songs would go down much smoother if he couched more of them in jangling electric guitar the way “I’m Crazy” is encased. The places where he puts his words to chunky, stripped down electric guitar chords, however, do little to compliment his plain singing.
The final verdict on Do it in the Name of Love is that Link has his mind and heart in the right place. Songs like “Act 1” and “Swingin Christmas” lead one to believe Link’s talents might be better suited for lighter, jazzier music, rather than rock. When he’s not driving his voice hard to match the rocking sonic, his singing is far more pleasant. This is a good record, but I have a lingering hunch Link has got even a better album in him waiting for the right moment to come out.
Review By: Dan MacIntosh
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 5)