Review Summary: An intimate evening with Uncle Patrick and Aunt Angelique.
Other than La Dispute
’s upcoming album Rooms of the House
, their most likely won’t be a more emotionally taxing release than Self Defense Family
’s Try Me
in 2014. The New York band utilizes the most sincere and passionate qualities of post hardcore and punk to evoke both a lyrical and sonic experience akin to reading an exquisitely written and bound diary. With Try Me
, vocalist and creative leader Patrick Kindlon chooses an intriguing direction that, while both bold and exceptionally crafted, suffers from a single (but significant) flaw.
That issue certainly isn’t the music, which is stupendous throughout. Guitar melodies paint a musical landscape rich with beauty and sparseness, presenting enough to make the mood perfect but not too much so as to detract from Kindlon’s vocals. With a delivery best described as ***ed Up
’s Pink Eyes adapting the delivery style of La Dispute
’s Jordan Dreyer, Kindlon shines as a brilliant orator, exercising no restraint and touching upon the topics that matter most. He’s one of those front men whose lyrics are worth reading as well as hearing.
What is perhaps Kindlon’s more intrepid input is the inclusion of an interview (sans Kindlon’s questions) with nineties porn star Jeanne Fine, presented on the album by her given name, Angelique Bernstein. Split into two roughly twenty minute parts (“Angelique One” at the middle of the album and “Angelique Two” as the final track), the interview details Bernstein’s life story, which is gripping despite its length. Anecdotes of drugs, sexuality and abuse are delivered in vivid, frank detail, which was aptly put by Kindlon when he described it as “compelling.” It helps that Bernstein comes across as the listener’s favorite aunt, who’s sitting back with a Virginia Slim in one hand and cocktail in the other, candidly expounding the secrets of her vast life experience. It’s both charming and tear-inducing, and Kindlon’s risk ends up paying off.
Well, perhaps no entirely, as Bernstein’s addition is where that one problem lies. It isn’t the quality of either the music or the interview so much as the way that they coexist on the album, or rather, how they don’t. The nine songs more than warrant repeat spins, and the two halves of Angelique’s story are definitely worth at least one listen. However, they simply don’t fit together quite that well. Apologists for the band and album will surely cite any number of contextual and conceptual reasons for the interview’s placement in the album, and perhaps they may hold some validity. But there’s no overcoming the fact that from a strictly structural standpoint, having two twenty minute monologues that interrupt the album’s momentum and replace a proper closing just doesn’t work. Angelique’s contribution is certainly worth including, but it probably should have been released as a bonus disc, as it ends up clogging the flow of the album rather severely.
It’s pretty unfortunate that this issue exists, as there isn’t much else to critique Try Me
about. Self Defense Family
have created an overall stellar release that deserves a listen from anyone even remotely interested in this style of music. Separate the music and interview, sit back with an abundance of tissues and weep for every reason that emotions allow for.