Review Summary: Those of you wondering what would happen if Underoath's drummer had his own band need not wonder anymore.
The following statement is rather close to a sweeping generalization and I don’t know if it helps anyone other than me – but as my grandfather might say, if you’re going to say something stupid, you might as well release it into the public domain so that millions upon millions of people for generation after generation may be able to look at that stupid statement and ROFL (my grandfather is very much in touch with the internet lingo of this generation). Basically, the way I see it, side projects or supergroups can be roughly divided into three categories:
a): A critically acclaimed and/or popular artist who focuses on a different genre but whose work is usually up to the same quality of the main band (i.e. The Postal Service, Thom Yorke)
b): A popular artist who gets tired of writing for the masses and gets in touch with his artistic side (i.e. Jack’s Mannequin, Angels and Airwaves)
c): A critically acclaimed artist who releases material that is much more accessible and mainstream and/or crappy (i.e. Audioslave, A Perfect Circle)
The Almost, Underoath drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie’s alternative/pop-punk side project, doesn’t fit perfectly in the last category – after all, despite what Define the Great Line
did for their credibility, Underoath remains despised by a good many. There’s no question, however, that The Almost’s debut, Southern Weather
, is far more TRL
-ready than any Underoath disc not named They’re Only Chasing Safety
. Southern Weather
is basically a collection of big hooks and choruses arranged in a formulaic manner ready for the average Fall Out Boy or Taking Back Sunday fan to consume; there are no weird time changes or E-bows or even choirs of layered vocals to be found.
But don’t equate accessibility with low quality in this case. Gillespie apparently has hooks coming out the wazoo, and with Seattle producer Aaron Sprinkle (Anberlin, Emery) giving the disc the “Tooth & Nail treatment,” each song on Southern Weather
is eminently catchy and well-constructed. Though far less imagination was put into it than Define the Great Line
, Southern Weather
is a carefree, fun album that seems perfect for summer (at this point, this is admittedly of more relevance to our Australian and other Southern Hemispherean readers).
Gillespie recorded Southern Weather
in the months after Underoath finished working on Define the Great Line
and did almost all of the instrumentation himself. As you might expect, Gillespie’s drumwork is excellent; not up to Define the Great Line
’s brilliance, but still one of the best in the genre. The quality of the guitar and bass are obviously greater reasons for worry, given Gillespie’s previously unproven ability at those instruments, but there is no need to worry. Though certainly nowhere near the level of his drumming, Gillespie’s guitars are effectively workmanlike and don’t get in the way of the album’s catchy choruses, which are what this record is all about.
Aside from the country-tinged acoustic “Dirty and Left Out” (featuring the vocals of Sunny Day Real Estate’s Jeremy Enigk) and the amazingly awkward “Amazing Grace” remake “Amazing Because It Is”, there is little variation to be found on Southern Weather
; think TOCS
-era Underoath without Spencer (this is a plus for many) or the emotional buildups and breakdowns. Gillespie sometimes strains or forces his vocals a bit too much, particularly on “Amazing Because It Is” and the end of “Everyone Here Smells Like a Rat”, but the transition from occasional-vocalist to frontman is mostly a seamless one. The biggest problem with the record is its self-contained boundaries; because Gillespie wanders so little from the beaten path, Southern Weather
can’t really be considered anything more than a singles record and does nothing in the least to upstage his other band.
But then again the point of The Almost was never to imitate or outdo Underoath; Gillespie apparently just had a hankering to try his hand at making fun sing-alongs. Some critics may listen to this and ask “Why?” It’s a fair question; Southern Weather
isn’t any sort of mind-blowing entry into the most crowded genre in popular music. But it is an undeniably catchy and fun record that doesn’t carry any sort of pretense that seems to dog the top bands in the genre. In this respect, a better question might be “Why not?”
Say This Sooner
Drive There Now
Everything That Makes Me Sick