Context – wading the river nostolgia
After yesterday’s lack-luster album choice, I was feeling despondent about screamo and a bit embarrassed by my long-term affiliation with the scene. Screamo is one of those genres where it’s hard to admit just how much I like it. Too heavy for pop, too soft for metal, not punk enough, not anything enough, screamo seemed to hit several sweet spots at once by their approach to all of these disparate tides of alternative music. While I saw this as a good thing, a lot of people seem to see this as a watering down (if not outright bastardization) of “better” genres.
The first time I saw Thursday’s music video for “Understanding in a Car Crash”, I knew my life had changed. And for the better. More of that please.
But looking back, it’s hard to listen to Senses Fail without a tinge of regret. They have a few good songs, but the bulk of their content is rough around the edges at best, and seems to highlight all the worst aspects of the genre. And so over the years this genre has fallen progressively out of my favor as I found Senses Fails than Thursdays and I began the plunge into exploring other genres of music.
So when The Needle Drop did the monthly “YUNO Review” for December and mentioned briefly “dddddaaaayyyyyyuuuuummm that’s some good screamo,” I had to check it out. I figured all the good screamo died in 2007, and was curious as to see what came around the river bend.
Man was I sad when I realized how good Old Gray is. Not sad that I’ve been wrong about decrying the genre for the last 5 years or so, but sad that I had already reviewed an album for the day. This shit had me jacked, and I wanted to scream(o) it from the rooftops! God damn is Slow Burn (2016) fucking rad!
Oh wait, what’s this? Old Gray has an earlier album, 2013’s An Autobiography? Why yes, I will piggy back off that to talk about how much I’m loving Old Gray as of yesterday.
I have to add the disclaimer that in my opinion Slow Burn is a strictly better album than An Autobiography, which is still excellent, but much more rough around the edges. Slow Burn takes the seeds planted and scatters them to the wind, letting the winter gales that so plague my attempts at commuting by bicycle elevate the material to new heights, and hopefully vastly improving the reach this band has.
Like Slow Burn, An Autobiography is at it’s weakest when they do the spoken word poetry thing. This thing is more prevalent on their debut album than their follow up, which is no small factor in terms of influencing my opinion. These tendencies don’t do much to quell the haters’ attempts to shame us scene kids into getting a haircut and a belt without studs, and I’m not exactly thrilled about this trend surviving into the emo-revival I keep hearing whispers about.
However, literally every other part of the[se] album[s] is fueled by an energy I have only heard in NAILS since starting this blog, and from the get-go does the “grab your face and demand your attention” thing I need to feel satisfied by my aggressive music. The visceral response to Old Gray cannot be understated, and you will know within 20 seconds if this is your new favorite band or if they’re a bunch of screaming idiots. That these particular screaming idiots’ vocals remind me of The Blood Brothers or The Number Twelve Looks Like You only adds to my affection, as that high-pitched-barely-holding-on-for-dear-life shrillness is either sweet, sweet nectar to your brainwaves, or makes you long for the days where nails on a chalkboard were the worst your ears had experienced.
Thank you, Old Gray, for restoring my faith in screamo. No frill, no tricks, no blending of genres and bending of expectations, just raw angst manifesting itself. It feels good to be back.