Review Summary: 1994! return with a new approach, expanding their already formidable sound into new territory.
During the summer of 2010, 1994! embarked on an extended North American tour with their friends and fellow emo bands Snowing and Algernon Cadwallader. They also released “Fckyrhead”, their first proper LP (LP being a relative term with a curt band like 1994!). “Fckyrhead” turned out to be a near perfect summation of the sound 1994! had already practically branded at that point. It was more polished than their previous releases and was dizzying with it’s brief song times, frantic guitar riffs, and strained, shouted vocals. Touring with the two previously mentioned bands and playing their new songs, 1994! cemented their legacy as one of the best emo revival bands of the 2000’s. Aside from a couple songs released the year after, 1994! was then quiet for nearly two years, leading many to question if 1994! was dead, perhaps because they had nothing left to say or prove.
It was quite a shock then when “*** It” was unceremoniously released to the world in February of 2012. It was released free of charge and with no plans for a physical release. This may be because, of great note, the record was recorded on an iPhone. Yes, you are reading that correctly. It’s a move not entirely without precedent; after all, Gorillaz recorded an album on an iPad in 2010 and it turned out pretty good. But how would it suit a band that was hard enough to digest when recorded in a studio?
The answer is: quite well. In fact, “*** It” as a whole is a very good release. Besides the change in sound, the band stated that “*** It” is supposed to be digested as one whole track. While it is split into seven different tracks for convenience, it provides an interesting frame to view the album from. It features, for the first time, some experimental noise pieces (untitled 1 & 2, respectively). It also features a toned down, almost acoustic track in “from decay”. But don’t worry, the band can still shred, as shown on “never into it, definitely over it” and the best song on the album “I, I, I, me, me, me”.
The fact that the record was recorded on an iPhone means there is a lot of sound clipping. It makes “Fckyrhead” sound immaculate in comparison. However it adds an additional charm to the sound, as you have to fight through the haze and guttural screams to discern the fleeting guitar parts poking through each track. The band maintains their trademark intensity and drive, absolutely pummeling the listener on the faster tracks. But they also can affectively slow the pace and breathe, before launching into the next menacing maelstrom. Each track flows easily into the next and the energy follows a coherent path, proving the band’s “as a whole” songwriting approach paid off.
1994! have managed somehow to explore their sound even further, moving on from a sound they could have simply sat on. They are challenging themselves and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. Would their more experimental compositions sound better or worse with a cleaner sound? Can the band expand their sound to the length of an actual LP? Will the band even stay together to find out? We’ll find out in the future. In the meantime I suggest you try to see them live, as they put on a hell of a show and these new songs should fit in well with the old ones. And for once, recording the songs on your crappy iPhone will result in a recording that’s actual reminiscent of the band’s sound on record.