Review Summary: Without peaks and valleys, Old Crows/Young Cardinals is a wash of mid-paced, hook-laden and relatively solid post-post-hardcore.
For all of the bickering that is sure to accompany Alexisonfire’s latest work, it’s important to note that very little has changed since the relatively well received, relatively well done Crisis
. But as with many acts, nostalgia often sparks revisionism and it’s easy to forget Crisis
exists when you’re still waiting for the second coming of Watch Out!
(which, frankly, doesn't compare to their self-titled anyways). If you’ve gotten this far, you can probably assume that with Old Crows/Young Cardinals
that is most definitely not the case.
, Old Crows/Young Cardinals
feels tragically like an album that inputs filler around a few standouts, but like Crisis
, its standouts are certainly worth noting. The disc’s opening one-two title track punch do their best at implicating the band’s past formula into their glossy new package, with “Old Crows”' shout-y, sing-song-y chorus narrowly missing out on becoming the band’s best yet. “Young Cardinals” is less immediately successful, though for the most part i's a quintessential grower. What holds the album back is, oddly enough, the fact that there's not a completely bad song on it. This holds it back because the album ends up being a hugely complacent (if consistent) sounding album where it holds a relatively steady level of quality from front to back, and the lack of peaks and valleys make it harder to keep your attention. Even with the album's supposed lows come contrasted highs. Take the dualistically awful-slash-awesome “Accept Crime”, a track whose tacky attempts at 'remember me, quote me' lyrical slogalism (we will be free, to use our bodies as we please/there’s no police between two beating hearts) threaten to ruin its otherwise energetic, raucous pace. Even at its worst the album's lows find themselves wedged throughout otherwise good songs. “The Northern”, the album’s zealously organ peppered and surprisingly groovy stand-out, might be the best song on the album, but the separation between it and the sleep-inducing (and also organ-clad) “Burial” is relatively minimal.
The more things change, the more they stay the same; though George’s voice is trashed, Wade’s fingers tired, Dallas still sounds far better than he’ll ever replicate live and Chris is still irrelevant. Old Crows/Young Cardinals
may solidify the band’s transition into a more straight-laced rock band, but it does so by representing the contrast that made waves on MuchMusic and The Edge years ago. While it may not be as pronounced or explicit, Alexisonfire’s ability to dynamically blend harsher tones with sugar-sweet melodies has flipped from their inception; like Rise Against, Alexisonfire are another solid rock band rising from the ashes of a dead scene to dominate (and perhaps legitimize) the airwaves. And let’s face it, give the choice between this or Nickelback, Old Crows/Young Cardinals
is far better than the average concession. Its faults are minimal, though its highs are somewhat indistinguishable. In the end, you're left with a wash of mid-paced, hook-laden and relatively solid post-post-hardcore.