Friday, December 19, 2008

Living Things is an American pop-rock band based in Creve Coeur, Missouri, the upper middle class suburb of St. Louis where the band members grew up. The band’s core is comprised of the Rothman brothers, Jason, Justin, and Josh, who perform under the pseudonyms “Lillian, Eve, and Bosh Berlin.” Guitarist Cory Becker rounds out the quartet. The band made its name by capitalizing on the opportunity to criticize the Bush administration at the nadir of its unpopularity. More recently, though, the novelty of this position has worn, while the Rothman brothers have drawn increasing criticism for their fabrications, not only of their pseudonyms, but their entire life story.

Central to the Living Things image is an air of rebellion emanating from a position of social critique. The Rothman brothers deride their hometown of St. Louis as the home of “beer and sports,” a “socially conservative” portion of “the bible belt.” More generally, the brothers have been strident in their criticisms of American politics and society, and in their new album Habeus Corpus, suggest that the American public is living in a state of ignorance, wearing “blindfolds.”

Critics take issue with a fundamental inconsistency at the heart of the Living Things: on one hand, the band criticizes American society with a posture of moral superiority, but at the same time, the Rothman brothers systematically misrepresent their life stories to lend themselves the aura of sex and danger needed to sell records.

The Rothman brothers have represented their upbringing as fraught with difficulty and drama. In actuality, though, the Rothman brothers led a privileged life. The Rothman family is well known and respected in the St. Louis community as the owners of the discount furniture chain, Rothman Furniture. As the Rothman website explains, “Rothman Furniture has been family owned and operated since 1927, providing our customers with quality furnishings and faithful service.” (See

Jason, Justin, and Josh Rothman grew up in Creve Coeur, where they attended Parkway North High School. The three first performed in public at the local radio station 105.7 The Point’s music festival, “Pointfest.” Under the name The Skoobies, the band performed covers of the Lemonheads and Guns ‘n Roses. As a student at Parkway North High School, lead singer Jason Rothman (“Lillian Berlin”) was an above average student and a member of the student council.

Members of the St. Louis community have come to resent the Rothman brothers for the way they trash-talk their hometown in public. A review in the local Riverfront Times provides some insight into the disappointment St. Louisans feel: