Review Summary: Throw in a little Minus the Bear, Million Dead, Tera Melos, Maps and Atlases, and a little originality and you've got Meet Me in St. Louis.
Meet Me in St. Louis are the latest addition to the growing and highly dominant U.K. post-hardcore scene. Million Dead, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, and bands like them have been creating a lot of attention with their fast paced seemingly random blend of pop-punk, hardcore and math rock. Meet Me in St. Louis is the most successful band to attempt this sound so far in terms of sheer originality. Combining Million Dead’s pop sensibility with The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg’s technical backing, Meet Me in St. Louis’ sound is basically pop songs broken down into ten second burst of energy that are strung together into three minute explosions. Where the band merely flirted with their music’s pop backing on their debut EP, “Variations on Swing” their latest releases sees them branching out into realms of electronica and more concise post-hardcore to create a much more rewarding, eclectic and dynamic sound.
Vocalist Toby is an anomaly. While he certainly does not favor the niche carved out for terrible vocalists by the Kinsellas, he also isn’t attempting anything pristine like Jake Snider of Minus the Bear. Instead, Toby sort of evokes Gastby’s American Dream’s Nic Newsham. His voice is strong but during many moments of the album particularly the ones that are extremely varying in the instrumental portions make it clear that he is either straining or falling into the nasally realm that pop-punk is known for. Of course, while there is nothing wrong with that, some fans that might appreciate the records technical expertise will be very unforgiving towards the vocalist’s performance.
Like I previously said, “Variations on Swing” is a marked improvement over the band’s EP due to its more concise and also eclectic nature. Where the band’s EP seemed like four insane songs with an acoustic reprise attached on the end, “Variations” actually feels like an album. Opener, “The Torso Has Been Severed in Mid Thorax” and the three tracks that follow it create an instant sense of power as they blend through enough dynamic shifts in around fifteen minutes as it would take Godspeed You Black Emperor! a solid week to. Highlights are marked in the group vocals of “Well You Damn Well Should” and the interplay between beautiful harmonic breaks and heavy riffing in “Right This Way, You Maverick Renegade”. After all this explosive power, Meet Me in St. Louis realizes the listener will need some down time so they relax in the middle of the record with the beautifully, acoustic “I Beat Up The Bathroom, I’m Sorry”. Built around an oddly strummed acoustic pattern that slowly builds into an emotional outburst with glitchy electronics and all, “I Beat up the Bathroom, I’m Sorry” is certainly one of the albums strong highlights and a great way to transfer between the more poppy first half of the album and the second half’s more solemn side.
I guess it would be important for me to describe the actual instrumental sound of this band and what makes them so successful. The guitarists are certainly students of the Midwest emo scene in the form of Kinsella’s “jazzy” groups like Owls, and American Football. Also, it is clear they have a strong influence from At the Drive-in’s final LP “Relationship of Command” and also that they could be labeled as the “underground” Million Dead if that band was still around. The rhythm section is flawless as it needs to be to deal with the intense tempo shifts and build ups that the band is constantly progressing through. I believe, Alex Newport produced the album and it is really well done. The guitars are full, but also able to reproduce a very clean and beautiful tone when necessary. The bass and drums are laid pretty low in the mix, but just enough so that the guitars and vocals are given the highlight since they are doing most of the work. Basically, Meet Me in St. Louis is a technically proficient pop-punk group that rides the line between pop-punk and post-hardcore. They are truly an original band and probably one of the most interesting groups coming out of the UK at the current moment.
2007 has clearly been a year of astonishing almost over zealous technicality entering nearly every genre of music. Between the Buried and Me’s “Colors” pushed the limits of death metal’s comprehension, Minus the Bear raised the ante on typical indie rock and Battles’ “Mirrored” extended the vocabulary of math rock. “Variations on Swing” fits in this year by single handedly one upping Hot Cross’s “Risk Revival” in terms of the best post-hardcore release as well as defining how far a pop-punk band can take their instrumental ability. This is a band to watch and a debut LP that is easily one of the best albums of 2007.