Release Date: June 10th, 2008
Record Label: Bridge Nine
Disclaimer: This is a band whose sole existence is based in expressing their political views. They are, in conventional terms, "far left." The views expressed by Verse are not necessarily the views of anyone involved with Animal Noises Music Blog, however, it would be a complete injustice to their artistic integrity if the political aspect of this record was left unmentioned.
Another Disclaimer: I feel I need to address this. In case many of you haven’t realized this about a lot of the bands I review, the music isn’t mentioned all that much, and I’ll tell you why: More often than not, there are no intricate guitar lines or pretty sounding harmonies. It’s all pretty much fast paced, in your face, music with a message. Sometimes there’s singing, sometimes there’s screaming. If I deeply investigated the music of every song it would all essentially say "This song is fast, they play power chords, the singer yells words, and you probably want me to stop repeating myself and shut up now because I appear unoriginal and keep saying the same things, when in reality, that’s the only thing that really can be said, because that’s the point of hardcore." It’s about the message, suckers.
This review may appear quite long-winded, but that’s because I feel as if there is a lot of explaining of outside factors that is necessary in order to convey my thoughts about this record in a cognizant manner (both for those who consider themselves "hardcore afficionados," and those who.. well.. may not). I will start off by talking about a completely different band. It absolutely amazes me the affect that Modern Life is War’s last and final release, "Witness," had on the hardcore scene. It amazes me in the sense that it was hailed by a whole lot of people as a breakthrough album for the genre, for the band, hell, even for the band member’s grandmothers.
Of course, when things like this happen, everyone is well aware of the "consequences" (I use quotations because it’s not necessarily a bad thing.. in certain contexts): Other bands will without a doubt be influenced by the aforementioned album, and it was evident with "Witness" that the influence would extend for many years to come, not just a few months. However, you expect this influence to primarily be prominent in up and coming bands, or newly formed ones, it’s not really expected from bands that already have an established sound (do NOT misconstrue what is being said here, there is NOTHING wrong with a band maturing [Unless it’s "Crime in Stereo is F***ing Dead," but that’s for a different day]) mainly because you’d think that an established band would try to go their own route and not emulate a "new sound" that was already "discovered" by somebody else.
What’s my point? This "band with an already established sound" is Verse, and they have indeed spun the "Witness" record a good many times over the past year. My problem with this entire album? There is no risk, it’s (as harsh as this is going to sound) a poor man’s Modern Life is War record. Did I absolutely hate it? No. Was I surprised by it? Believe it or not: No. Because this has become an all too common theme in music today. An actual original piece is presented and people absolutely love it, in this instance, "Witness" was the kick in the rear end that hardcore really needed and then it is demeaned because people don’t let it influence them, they don’t play off of it and try to work it into what they’re trying to do: they try to replicate it. Again, do not mistake what I’m saying here, Verse is a fantastic band and their previous release "From Anger and Rage" was one of my favorite albums in recent memory and in no way am I taking the hipster cop out route and saying "their older stuff is so much better because I’m a jaded tool." This IS a good album, saved mostly by the incredibly relevant lyrics in regards to the status of our country and the world around us. With references to New Orleans, the War in Iraq, Mummia Abu-Jamal, if you’re into political hardcore (this obviously means "left-wing politics") you will absolutely love what is being said here, and fully appreciate the sincerity of the message.
The opening track, "The New Fury" lulls you to sleep with a melodic opening out of a Sunny Day Real Estate song, then explodes with lyrics delivered with such urgency you are drawn to them instantaneously. Picture yourself lazily driving down the street and then you turn a corner, and suddenly, you see an attractive person of the opposite (or same) sex walking past you down that street. How quickly your head snaps around to catch a glimpse: that’s precisely what happens here. Is that the most artistic description ever? Probably not. But at least you know what I’m talking about.
The second track "Old Guards, New Methods" is vintage Verse and I can only think of a string of expletives to describe how excited I am about this song (especially on this record), but I will refrain in order to maintain some form of professionalism. It’s one of the faster tracks on the album and is a great representation of how hardcore has progressed up to this point in time. Lyrically, this is the title song to revolution, to protest, to standing up for yourselves in, what is described as, a country that is overlooking the travesties at home. It is wrapped up by the phrase "No War" being screamed incessantly and this track will more than likely be behind some form of acting out by some anxt-ridden teen somewhere.
Third we have "Suffering to Live, Scared to Love." Remember all that babbling about replicating and what have you? This would be one point of reference. The music is played at mid-tempo and the words are screamed over it. The guitar work is fairly complex in this one, and it’s not "your typical hardcore song," the drumming, as on the previous albums, and this entire one, is excellent and Verse should be overjoyed with the fact that they are definitely carrying one of the prominent drummers in hardcore today. Don’t believe me? See them live, then you will understand.
Fourth is the song "Signals," where, as hardcore usually does, the band takes a stand against the "Rockstar Lifestyle" and the "sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll" ideology that is fairly prevalent in some music scenes and pop-culture today. Example: "Everyone whispers and sends out a secret nod, the congregation’s in five minutes. ‘Meet me in the bathroom.’ Or maybe tonight the lines will get drawn right in front of you. The life you live is a life of stupidity like those on the pages of a Hollywood magazine." Take that Paris Hilton.. and Taking Back Sunday (that’s right, I said it).
We will now move to tracks 6-8: "Story of a Free Man:" Chapters one, two, and three.
(Once again, and I hate to beat a dead horse here.. but, here are three mid-tempo songs, that once again, are relevant to my earlier rant.)
Chapter One - The End of Innocence: Lyrically, a story is being told here and it actually does captivate you. The placement of these tracks is perfect, as they serve as the raft which carries you across from one shore to the other on this record. This initial part of the story can be described as a social commentary on the affects of war on a single individual, in this case a boy or young teen who is currently without a father because he (the father) is off fighting a war. The song opens with a description of a homeless man that lives under a bridge (Wondering what that aforementioned boy grows up to be? Bet you can’t guess.) And then recalls the homeless man’s childhood where his father was off to war and he, in turn, turned to drugs.
Chapter Two - The Cold Return: The song opens with the line "Dad came home in a body bag." And now chronicles the Homeless man’s current life. In which he is an addict that contemplates suicide on a daily basis. This is obviously linking the man’s homelessness/addiction to the fact that his father died in a war. With the recurring line of "Will we ever see an end to this?" this song is an attempt to drive home the idea that war destroys lives not only in the countries they are physically fought in, but it also has an affect of those waiting for the soldiers to return home. We are left with the addicted homeless man picking up a needle and saying "this is the last time."
Chapter Three - Serenity: This final chapter begins with a very intense build up, filled with drums and almost subliminal guitar lines, that you don’t really pay much attention to, but that build up the tension until the song finally erupts as the lyrics "He walked away a new man" leave the singers lips. Overall the story is a very intense one that may seem laughable in the manner that I have printed it, but in reality it is quite captivating and for a "hardcore band," the music appears fairly complex as well as artistic, and will most certainly impress you.
The twelfth track - Sons and Daughters, is, at some points, Verse doing what you love seeing them do. The song is upbeat and delivered with such conviction you know these guys believe in what they’re saying and what they’re doing. It’s based upon the idea that those who are the "Sons and Daughters" of the middle class merely exist to support and endorse the upper class, real people that simply serve as a means to an end to the wealthy. After you believe the song ends, there is an "outro" that is very reminiscent of the first and last tracks of their last tracks on Give Up the Ghost’s release "We’re Down ‘Til We’re Underground." It’s basically the band jamming and it actually does fit rather nicely and is a good closing to this particular album.
Overall, a quality record by a band that is a pillar in the hardcore community today. Despite my rant about replicating sounds and what have you, there are some stand out tracks in which Verse kicks it in to high gear and impresses you with a matured sound that does not seem to be ripped from the fret boards of Modern Life is War. If you are going to purchase your first Verse record, this should not be the one you choose, however, in time you may come to appreciate some of the things it does have to offer: a few of these tracks are a look at what hardcore has progressed into and the potential that lay ahead for those willing to pursue it, once they (Verse and others) get past the idea that they have to carry a torch that was ignited by the originality of others, and when it is realized that replication will only extinguish, not fan, the flame.