Post-hardcore merges the experimentation of noise rock with the energy of hardcore punk. During its first two decades, post-hardcore was pretty underground, but it produced notable acts like Shellac, Fugazi, and Big Black in the 80’s and Chavez, Slint, and Unwound in the 90’s.
In the 2000’s, post-hardcore broke with The Used’s 2003 self-titled album and My Chemical Romance’s 2004 album Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, achieving gold and platinum status respectively. By this point, the experimental edge and underground roots of post-hardcore had been eradicated for mainstream satisfaction.
Today, bands like I See Stars, We Came As Romans, and Asking Alexandria are desecrating this beautiful genre: their production is too polished, they use generic song titles, and the lead singers sound like they’re on Radio Disney (see I See Stars’ video for “What This Means To Me” if you think I’m just joshing with you). Who will save post-hardcore?
Fortunately, the band Owls retains that classic post-hardcore sound. Thirteen years after their self-titled debut (which happened to be produced by Big Black/Shellac’s Steve Albini), the Chicago quartet has released Two, a time machine that travels back to the golden age of post-hardcore.
The album’s lead single “I’m Surprised...” crosses Built To Spill-like indie with math rock’s odd time signatures and riffage. On first listen, the song seems like a stream of awkward chord progressions, but underneath its oddness, “I’m Surprised...” is a rad power pop song. Lyrically, Owls can be abstract, but also very creepy: on “The Lion...,” lead vocalist Tim Kinsella repetitively sings the line “I’ve seen hornets slaughter honeybees.” The bizarre, eerie imagery it conjures seems like an outtake from Eraserhead. “Ancient Stars Seed...” is musically interesting: it’s instrumentally in D minor, but vocally in D major. This is noteworthy because - since minor keys are sad and major keys are happy - there are conflicting emotions, resulting in massive tension. Other great tracks include the Slint-sounding “It Collects Itself...” and the noise pop storm “A Drop Of Blood...”
Owls aren’t alone in the fight to save post-hardcore. They’re joined by similar acts including Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings and Washington D.C.’s recently reunited The Dismemberment Plan. They've slowly been gaining attention and praise from outlets like Pitchfork and Spin. Who knows. Maybe they’ll overpower the sacrilegious post-hardcore bands, bringing peace on Earth.
8.8 / 10
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