First of all, I'm going to apologize for only reviewing records that I like a lot. With that being Said, American Nightmare/GUTG has done it again. I've been a fan of American Nightmare since their first 7" came out, and I've loved all of their subsequent releases. This is is no exception to the trend.
We're Down Til We're Underground is comprised of thirteen songs, some of them new, some of them previously released or leaked. The album starts off with an instrumental, and then suddenly leaps into action on a rather punk-rock cue from vocalist Wes Eisold. "1,2,3,4", comes the call, and they're off into "Love American", which sounds like a mix between the bands very own "Farewell" and Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Trust me, the comparison is apt. The desperate admission "Love is all that we ever had" makes for a great chorus. In traditional Eisold fashion, the entire song is peppered with reflections on life's love and happiness - or the lack thereof.
"You go nowhere in a nowhere town/and no one's listening/to the sound of breaking down/and breaking out is just wishful thinking"
He's one of the few writers that can say what's been said thousands of times before, and capture emotions in a way that no one else really can. There's a fine line between self-indulgent nonsense and poignant insight - Eisold treads this line marvelously.
In some ways, this record seems to be a tribute to the power of music. Take for example the closing stanza of "Young Hearts Be Free Tonight" -
"Sing everything you've ever loved/For everything that you will one day love/Long live the sound of desperation/Long live the stereo of destruction"
The theme continues, as metaphors and allusions to music show up throughout the record. "The Last Supper After Party" winds up with a snare roll, and launches into a beat that's just in between fast and midpaced. The song is a somewhat confused declaration of simultaneous disbelief in God, and repentence. The song winds down, and ends with a sweet mosh part. Eisold declares "My gospel's from the Church of Stereo Activists", which once again ties into this whole power of music theme.
Not every song on this record is a gem. I think "Bluem" is a good song, but it just takes a little too long to get good. I think the ending is solid, and bleeds very well into the next song "AEIOU", which I'm strongly considering as my potential favorite on the album. The bass and drum driven intro is heavy and atmospheric, it reminds me of U2 or REM in a certain way. The song leaps from a standstill into one of the catchiest verse riffs ever written - it reminds me of something you might hear on Bad Religion's Generator.
The album closes with a beautiful instrumental, that reminds me of something you might hear from Smashing Pumpkins, or maybe even My Bloody Valentine or Sonic Youth. You've never heard American Nightmare/GUTG like this before.
Anyway, to wrap it up... this record isn't going to appeal to everyone. A lot of people dislike the direction they've taken since their first two releases. However, if you were a fan of Background Music, there's no reasonable excuse you could have for not liking this record. If you're new to AN/Give Up The Ghost, you'll find the interesting stylistic mix of a band that hasn't given up it's hardcore roots, that blends in a slight experimental rock influence. Trademark vocals and lyrics, delving into a good range of topics complete the package, leaving you with a record that's bound to stand the test of time.
You might be asking yourself, "who the Hell is Give Up the Ghost?" If you are, you missed out on the hardcore scene's answer to the OJ trial, in which some shitty band from Nantucket sued hardcore favorites American Nightmare over the copyright of that band name. AN had no choice but to change their name to Give Up the Ghost, or GUTG for short. I'm not bringing this up to give some kind of backstory for this review, I'm bringing this up because everytime I see "GUTG", I read it as a word, not an acronym, so for the remainder of this review, I will refer to this band as "Gutguh".
Gutguh had a lot to prove with their second full-length record. With their previous LP, Background Music, two others EPs, and constant touring, the band has managed to win over a great number of fans, and become one of the most prominent acts in the hardcore scene. However, we all know by now that a sizable fanbase in the hardcore scene amounts to diddly squat, because hardcore kids have become infamous for loving a band one day and deeming them "trash" the next. When Gutguh's new album's artwork found its way onto the internet, it seemed to only rev the engine of the "OMG AN SUCKS NOW" formula-1 racecar ready to take off when the album was released. Featuring a large heart made of those little Valentine's Day candy hearts, the coverart only served to reinforce the popular theory that Gutguh were going to become some cliche "emocore" act.
Sorry, hardcore kids, if you liked any of Gutguh's previous efforts, you really can't rationally explain not liking this record. I know it might be a bit much for me to expect such an explination in a scene where spontaneous, irrational dislike for once beloved bands has become common practice. We're Down 'Til We're Underground isn't much of a step away from anything the band has done in the past. The album's first actual song, 'Love American', to me, seems like it would've fit with some of the band's older material. It's a straight-forward new school hardcore song packaged with those lover scorn sentiments the band has become known for. The song 'Since Always' almost sounds like a Refused song. Though, obviously Gutguh don't bring the same ingenuinity to hardcore that Refused did, you can definitely feel some of their influence in this song. Underground's best song would have to be "Bluem". The eighth track on the record starts off with chord progressions and a bassline that sound like something off of a heavier version of Cave In's Jupiter record, fades into almost nothing, and then begins to build up to the record's climactic point. It's probably the most unique song on the record, which isn't saying that much.
Wes Eisold, front man of Gutguh, has become known as one of the better lyricists in the hardcore scene, which is probably true, however, he doesn't have that great of competition. Most of the bands similar to Gutguh have rather typical, cliched lyrics, and Eisold and gang manage to escape that fate. While Wes does dance around and touch on plenty of cliches, he decorates them well with his unique style and some strong lines. With lines like "This is the crush of the year in our night-vision dreams, know what I mean?/You see yourself where you should be" from 'Crush of the Year', or "You and me equals me (add it)/I am one life minus one/And it is my math to do/So fuck you", Wes manages to convey messages that both stir emotion in the listener and warrant some finger-pointing from a hardcore crowd.
Most of the record is a somewhat typical new school hardcore pursuit. While Gutguh may bring more to the table in terms of creativity than most of their hardcore scene compadres, they seem to keep their sound within the parameters of hardcore that most of those devoted to that scene have grown accustomed to. Don't expect anything too inventive on this record. The last track, '(And It's Sometimes Like It Will Never End)', sends the band diving towards the post-rock movement that has been garnering buzz and acclaim with bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, Sigur Ros, etc. The problem with this song is, well, Gutguh simply aren't as good as those bands. They fail to successfully use the proper musical devices to capture a mood or sentiment in the track that the aforementioned bands have been able to do so successfully in the past. This track just sounds out of place and like a terribly contrived effort to make this record seem more creative than it really is.
What you're going to get on We're Down 'Til We're Underground is some decent modern hardcore high on angst, low on creativity. This record isn't going to piss off the majority of Gutguh's fanbase, which is exactly the problem. The greatest evidence towards reaching a creative pinnacle in this particular genre is when the hardcore elite hate it. This is a fairly easy-to-swallow record for both hardcore scenesters and casual fans of the genre. Decent lyrics, run of the mill "core" progressions, some of the better songwriting in the realm of new school hardcore, and a few failed attempts at bringing some new ideas to a genre choking on its own repetition all add up to a pretty ok record. On one hand, this record is at least worth one or two listens, on the other hand...oh...shit.
7.95 / 10
Reviewed by 2 writers.
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