It’s been a long time since the last Rational Anthem record, Emotionally Unavailable in 2014. The band is still similar but what jumps out the most to me with It’s Only Permanent is the clean, big pop hooks. The band has always been peppy and focused on those singalong moments, but this record is downright anthemic from start to finish. The band has also shifted vocals a little bit, moving from trade-offs to harmonization with Noelle Stolp taking the bulk of the microphone leads.
There’s no term other than pop-punk that I’d apply to Rational Anthem, with big and dramatic moments from time to time. The cover shows a young couple, hand-in-hand, striding toward a tsunami and there are multiple lyrics with similar concepts: “on the ledge,” “falling and crashing,” “bite the bullet,” etc.
Returning to that walking into the waves idea, there’s no better metaphor for “Already Alright,” which features a building, whoa-oh choruses and the movements of a gigantic wave about to crash into something new and unknown. Cryptic tones permeate the record, but in even balance with we’re-all-in-this-together vibes like the gang chorus “Godspeed You! Black Empanada” or the punchy refrain of “Better Get Better.”
In many ways, Rational Anthem are a culmination of the DIY pop-punk scene. It’s community music for miscreants looking for a place to belong, but it’s more about that journey than finding solace, lyrically. It’s peppy and powerful, but cynical as hell. Take a dose of Off With Their Heads but whitewash it with The Bouncing Souls.
I’d personally like to see a smidge more variety between songs from Rational Anthem and the production on It’s Only Permanent is a little more polished and crisp than I prefer, but the band has some serious songwriting chops that balance complex emotions with enjoyable tunes -- which is something that really takes talent. The tempo changeups in “Already Alright” are an intriguing direction, as is the charging rhythm of "Dragger". It took 5 years for a new record. Here’s looking forward to the next.
Posted Sept. 29, 2019, 9:29 a.m.
Iowa's Rational Anthem return with their third album, It's Only Permanent, on Nov. 1 with their debut for new label home A-F Records. With 11 songs in total ...
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