Released Jun. 18th on Top Shelf Records
This is another one I have to credit ozfactor for cluing me in to. Connecticut’s TWIABP are a full-on emo revival band. Not the pop rock grossly mislabeled as “emo” that you remember from the mid-’00s (Paramore, Fall Out Boy, My Chemical Romance, et al), nor even the pop-punkish emo of the millennial turn (Saves the Day, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional, etc.). No, this is a throwback to the mid-to-late ’90s emo bands of the midwest flyover states. Had TWIABP formed 15 years earlier, they’d have been a perfect fit for Deep Elm Records’ compilation series The Emo Diaries. The very existence of a band such as this has prompted numerous articles debating whether emo is “back” or if it ever really went away.
Not that TWIABP does anything to dispute the emo tag. Indeed, one glance at the band’s roster, and one listen to their music, and they practically wear the label across their foreheads. This is a band with almost as many members as it has words in its name: In total, 10 members contributed to Whenever, If Ever, their debut full-length. They feature instruments like synthesizers, piano, trumpet, and cello. They credit themselves by their full names (some of which are quite a mouthful: Derrick Nathaniel Shanholtzer-Dvorak, for example)…well, except for “Shitty Greg”. They have song titles like “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay”, “You Will Never Go to Space”, and “Getting Sodas”.
Sound-wise, they evoke some specific ’90s acts. The intricate and arepeggiated guitar lines recall groups like Mineral and American Football, the urgent vocals call to mind Cap’n Jazz, and the synth lines in “Fightboat” sound like they came straight off of The Anniversary’s Designing a Nervous Breakdown. Vocally, this band is all over the place: There are at least five members singing on this record, and they seem to switch up leads based solely on whoever wants the mic more at any given moment. The adenoidal, falsetto-ish one sounds kinda like Davey von Bohlen (of Cap’n Jazz and The Promise Ring), the screamy guy could’ve come from any 2000s-era screamo band like Thursday or Alexisonfire, and the female backups remind one very much of The Anniversary and like-minded groups. Sometimes they sing in tandem, other times they whisper, still other times they try to out-shout each other. You’d think this would be torture on the ears (and sometimes it is), but it’s all done with such genuine passion that it somehow succeeds, as only the purest of emo can.
And the lyrics? Oh man, every emo trope you can think of, but without even a hint of irony:
- Inside jokes: “Do you think the landlord’s pissed? We left the car parked on the lawn again”…I’m reminded of Braid, who had songs about being in Braid and the world inside their tour van.
- Naive defiance: “We sang songs but never learned your words or melodies”
- Advance nostalgia: “Are we powerless against our youth escaping?”
- Local references: “Our bodies drown in Sheetz, anchored, exhausted”
- Tour songs: “You’ll be home soon, but I won’t wait for you; this is gig life”
- Name-dropping of influences: “Now it’s just Rival Schools and mewithoutYou on our car rides”
- Analogizing your problems to the end of the world: “The world will destroy me; I am the mountains crumbling”
There’s an earnestness to this whole thing, an innocent and unstudied sort of ambition that results in its fair share of mistakes. Awkward timing shifts, cacophonous vocal overlaps, and other such flaws pop up, but if they’d tried to sand out these rough spots, the album just wouldn’t have the same youthful character. As the cover art suggests, sometimes you need to just fucking do it, jump off the ledge even if you’re probably gonna hurt your legs on the landing. It’s the impulse of a young, exciting band, and of course it’s very, very emo.