Review Summary: Four songs. Every one excellent.
Ever since the dissolution of the much-feted Jets to Brazil, fans of Blake Schwarzenbach found themselves wondering what he would do next. As it turned out, he jacked in music for a while and taught English at Hunter College in New York, but later resurfaced in a three-piece known as Thorns of Life. This group, sadly, never actually made it into the studio; the only recordings that exist are bootlegs from live concerts and online videos. The group showed promise, but sadly fell apart. However, not long after, Schwarzenbach announced that he had started another group, known only as 'forgetters', recruiting former Against Me! drummer Kevin Mahon and ex-Bitchin bassist Caroline Piquita to round out the trio. And, this time, they made it into the studio.
forgetters immediately draw comparisons to Jawbreaker simply through their set-up - one guitar, bass, drums. Simple, but amazingly effective. But, although similar in format, the music they make is certainly another beast compared to the seminal California three-piece. It draws from the musicians' punk backgrounds while adding new flavours to the mix. Schwarzenbach's raspy vocals and resonant lyrics mesh into the growling but melodic rush; Piquita and Mahon form a watertight, gripping rhythm section. Furthermore, Schwarzenbach's singularly idiosyncratic guitar playing really adds flash and fire to the sound - building on the riffing he displayed in Jawbreaker and Jets to Brazil, the mercurial frontman laces his fierce tone with bright, clever fills and subtle but wholly necessary overdubs. There are even guitar solos on three of the four songs, but delivered in Schwarzenbach's inimitable, sloppy/precise style, and they add real flair rather than seeming tacked-on and ostentatious. Furthermore, the throaty roar he utilised on "24 Hour Revenge Therapy" is back, which is good news for those who disliked "Dear You", and better news for those who like everything in Jawbreaker's superlative oeuvre.
The opener, "Vampire Lessons," sets things up nicely; a bright, uptempo, minor key romp which details an intense, amorous relationship. As always, the lyrical content is hard to fault - it's not often you hear lines like "Swiftly unveiled at last I am myself /No retinue cataloguing my moral decline," in a relationship song, and they further solidify and lend weight to the music - Mahon acquits himself especially well here, the hyperactive pounding somehow recalling the rush of romantic love.
This is swiftly follow by the sombre, brooding "Too Small To Fail", which prominently features a beautifully simple bassline from Piquita. It is something of a come-down from the hot flush of "Vampire Lessons", the lyrics raw and focused, as always; "Don't need pride of place in your good books, I think I might fray the page." The songs alternates between the soft, bass-led verse and the howling chorus, until the emotional outpouring of the outro; "Someone's gonna love me someday!" yowls Schwarzenbach, giving voice to a legion of isolated singletons in one stroke.
Then comes the politically charged "Not Funny," a tale of an Afghani girl torn between her love for a soldier and her father. This is probably the loudest, most charged song on the EP; the lyrics cut like a blade, as they detail with finesse the turbulence of the young woman's indecision. The titular lyric is almost screamed, further lending credence to the powerful, image-rich tale, and the instruments expend feral energy, giving a fervent, strong soundtrack to the story.
Finally, we have "The Night Accelerates," a rocking, cheerful-on-appearance pop-punk tune that outlines a relationship in free-fall, but also the love that still flows through both parties. It features one of the best lines on the EP; "I ought to charge by the hour / For all the time I think of you." It is Schwarzenbach's writing style in minature - poignant, poetic but never maudlin. It spirals through its three-plus minute run time at a breathless pace, and then stops at just the right moment.
forgetters have produced four songs that, if you like a good piece of rock music, you shouldn't really be without. There is also plenty to love for Schwarzenbach fans here; imagine "Dear You" smashed headlong into "24 Hour Revenge Therapy", and you'll have some sort of idea. Buy the 7' or the iTunes download, and watch as a worrying amount of your music-listening time is devoured by these eminently listenable songs.
Let's hope they make an album as soon as possible.