Review Summary: No mirth, no levity, no amazing grace - just a flame on a lake floating away.
Pianos Become the Teeth alluded to a different musical direction earlier in 2011 when they stated that they wanted their new LP to sound ‘darker’, ‘heavier’, and anything but an extension of Old Pride
. That isn’t to say that their debut was unsatisfactory by any stretch of the imagination, but rather that musical growth is something of steadfast importance to them. Flattered by the notion of being labeled a ‘screamo’ act but ultimately resenting the consequence of being pigeonholed, the band sought to escape the rudiments of their genre with a captivating sophomore release. Ditching some of the juvenile characteristics of Old Pride
, Pianos Become the Teeth have mostly
succeeded in their vision to create a better album with more substance. It’s a cultivated, sincere - albeit slightly homogeneous - sound. Notwithstanding this uniformity, The Lack Long After
lifts liberally from its contemporaries to fashion an honest and impassioned album of fiery conviction.
If Old Pride
didn’t quite cement their spot as a conspicuous act, then The Lack Long After
will surely get listeners to do a double-take, as it sees the band sit high atop the echelons of this ‘new wave’ of post-hardcore outfits. Pianos Become the Teeth take some of the best elements of the antiquated ‘90s screamo scene and integrate them with Envy-esque post-rock sections. “I’ll Be Damned” kicks the album off with a jolt as vocals, imbued with a sense of hopelessness and disparity, aggressively tear through tasteful guitar work. Right away it’s obvious that the production and screams have both been sharpened to a higher standard. The singer sounds tortured - pathetic even, but not in a way that connotes negativity, rather a way that allows them to fluidly emote to their target audience. Every shriek and frayed wail is sincere, and when Kyle Durfey savagely cries: “I watched her crawl in bed with you/I watched her wet your lips/and couldn’t do a God damned thing/I watched you shake/I watched our hearts break” on “Spine” one can’t help but get the feeling he means it - that he’s been through the wringer. There’s a lingering sense of legitimate contempt being channeled through Durfey’s voice in ever song. Every line is hammered with staunch conviction, displayed with such longing, and exudes confidence in a way that Old Pride
All of the songs on The Lack Long After
are more focused, more tightly knit, and never overstay their welcome. “Liquid Courage” is the post-rock gem of the album that veils the vocals in lieu of an epic instrumental build, leading perfectly into the frenzied rush of thrashing drums and guitar distortion that refuse to sit still on “Spine”. “Such Confidence” houses the best build of any song on the album with one of the most rewarding conclusions, thanks to sporadic drumming. Even the less noteworthy cuts like “Shared Bodies” are at least great in some regard. But it’s the apocalyptic closer “I’ll Get By”, that shines the most. Ironically enough, it feels like the most controlled and restrained song on the album, but manages to emote far more than any other. It’s such a youthful cry of the pain and anguish felt from death, encompassing all of the lingering, unanswered questions, the fleeting nature of life, and the hopelessness felt from losing someone close to your heart. If the harrowing subject matter alone isn’t enough to elicit an emotional response from its listeners, then Durfey’s unadulterated vocals will surely do it. “It seems we all get sick/We all die in some no-name hospital/with the same colored walls/And I guess that's fine/But I want to swallow/I want to stomach/I want to live!” laments Durfey. It’s cynical, maybe even juvenile to some, but it’s unquestionably affecting.
While its imperfections add immensely to the final product, they also may (for some) detract from the replayability of the album as well. The only discernible fault of the album is that it’s perhaps a little uniform, but that’s just another way of saying it’s consistent, and what the band is doing here is completely honest, unfiltered, and exciting. The Lack Long After
is an unrestrained album of fury and emotion that unabashedly revels in despondency. Every aspect of Pianos Become the Teeth’s sound has been improved: the drumming reels its listeners in effortlessly and the guitar riffs help propel Durfey’s fractured leads. And it all starts to become clear that Durfey isn’t feigning this, he legitimately sounds like he’s on the cusp of an emotional meltdown, and it helps wondrously to contextualize the album’s central thesis. By the time the album has run its course, we’re left with a note free of resolution, but faint optimism is present: "I want you to know, I'm learning patience against my will/I want you to know I'll get by/Always barely scraping/With just a hunger/With just a heart apart”. It’s a hell of a thing.
“Life goes on because it has to. These things, they never leave - they stay with you. The smell of the viewing, your friends singing your praises, the flower boot that never bloomed until we lost you...