Released Apr. 4th on Mercury Records
When singer Frank Carter left popular UK hardcore band Gallows in 2011, it was explained that he and the other members couldn’t reconcile their differing ideas about the direction of the band. When both camps issued their first new songs post-split, it was immediately evident what those differences were: Gallows—replacing Carter with Alexisonfire’s Wade MacNeil—fired first with “True Colours”, a 40-second blast showing their intent to pursue even faster, darker hardcore sounds (see last year’s self-titled album). Carter teamed up with ex-Hope Conspiracy/Suicide File guitarist Jim Carroll to form Pure Love, announcing themselves with their video for “Bury My Bones”. My first reaction was “Hmm, so he didn’t want to do hardcore anymore; he wanted to sing for The Darkness.”
The song’s opening lyric summarizes Carter’s reasons for leaving his former band: “I’m so sick of singing about hate,” he says, “it’s never gonna make a change / It breaks me down bit by bit / Keeps me steadily feeling sick”. Quite an about-face from the guy who sang “Misery fucking loves me, and I love her too” on 2009’s seething Grey Britain. On that album Carter painted a bleak, hateful picture of the state of England, voicing his disdain in lines like “Grey Britain is burning down / We’ll be buried alive before we drown … / Set light to the flag we used to fly / God help us now, we are ready to die”. On Anthems he’s going for something much more confident, uplifting, and, well, anthemic; the revolution he hopes for in “Riot Song” is one born of hope, not hate: “Our lives will never be the same / We will never forget this day / The sins of our fathers turned us to the pyre / We set the mountain on fire / There’s a riot on the streets of England tonight”.
Musically, Anthems is a total departure from Carter and Carroll’s hardcore pedigrees. It’s an album full of huge, arena-ready commercial rock tunes. Carroll fills the songs with hooks and melodies, backed by a skilled rhythm section consisting of New Zealand musician Jol Mulholland on bass and drummer Jared Shavelson, whose credits include None More Black, The Hope Conspiracy, and Paint It Black. The whole thing is produced and mixed to a shine by veteran producer Gil Norton. Known for giving a similar slickness to big rock acts like Pixies, Foo Fighters, and Jimmy Eat World, his production suits the sound of Pure Love very well and makes these tracks very radio-ready.
Another big change from Gallows is that in Pure Love, Carter actually sings rather than yells. His voice is actually quite good on the album, and makes the songs instantly likeable. This sometimes masks a dark undercurrent to the lyrics, though: Counterbalancing the hopefulness found on “Bury My Bones” and “Riot Song” are some more tortured themes on songs like “The Hits” (“We are nothing/ We are allergic to change / All the hate and fear / And we are still in chains”) and “Heavy Kind of Chain” (“No one here is scared of us / We are dirt, we are dust / We have been crushed / Empty your soul / They will never know”).
Things get pretty explicit when Carter sings about sex: On opener “She” he indicates that he’s through with bad-news girls (“She’s a twenty-fucking-something just hungry for loving / She is fresh trash, more than pure class / So stop me before I hurt myself / I’m a picture of perfect health / And even though I hate being alone / I still wouldn’t take you home”), but then on “Handsome Devils Club” he’s inviting them up to his place (“Find me all the girls looking for love / The bad girls that just wanna fuck / Find me all the girls that look like sin / Bring them to my door and I’ll let ’em in … Find me all the posh and proper girls / Who wouldn’t look at me for all the diamonds in the world / I will be the boy that they swear they regret / But secretly still makes them wet”). “Burning Love” borders on X-rated: “Fuck me through these winter nights / Don’t let me go, just hold me tight / Pull me close while I bite your neck / Leaving teeth marks in your flesh / I’ll hold your hands behind your head / Girl your lips are bitten red / I’m hurting for your sex”. The “Riot Song” video depicts 3 children hiking for 2 days and nights through wind and rain to bring Pure Love an amp, then getting to stand side-stage while they play a festival; one wonders if “Burning Love” is one of the numbers they’re being treated to. The contrast between the hopeful anthems and the darker, sleazier numbers on the album can be a bit off-putting.
The jarring stylistic shift of Anthems from its members’ previous projects is surely going to lose the allegiance of many hardcore kids who rallied around Carter when he was fronting Gallows, but it seems that’s largely the point of Pure Love. Those fans would be better off following Gallows on their post-Carter track, but those audience members whose ears are open to melodic, arena-style rock will find plenty to enjoy on Anthems.