Review Summary: What good is your heart if it doesn't break?
I readily admit to having had a privileged upbringing - loving parents, solid friends, good health, a productive [non-journalism] career - and the knowledge that, all things considered, I haven't really experienced much of anything while on Earth so far. Day and night exist - even if it's difficult to distinguish at dusk - but I tend to be a bit leery of chronologically young bands utilizing a heart-on-sleeve approach to their writing. What would early-twentysomethings really know about despair and hopelessness playing in a band in the UK? The Bath-based outfit gave listeners a scare two years ago when they wrote that they were playing their last European tour in March 2012, only to renege by saying they would record a self-titled record in 2013. As terrific as Love Let Me Go
was - 2010 was a strong year for punk in general - the sequence illuminated the band's lack of maturity and sense of perspective.
The aforementioned self-titled 2013 record gradually metamorphosed to What's Left of Me
, and while the lyrical imagery of despondency, regret, and anguish exists in spades, the melancholy is partially counterbalanced with themes of confidence and hope. Further, there's a palpable sense of growth and maturity between What's Left of Me
and Love Let Me Go
, and the former's strengths are augmented thanks to the recording and mastering efforts of Neil Kennedy (Last Witness, Landscapes) and Alan Douches (Brand New, Converge), respectively. The guitars are again the most captivating element on What's Left of Me
, but are more melodic and aesthetically balanced without neutering the compulsory aggression. A quintessential example is the in-like-a-lion "Weight of the World", blitzing listeners with Tony Klein's pounding percussion and Joey Bayes's resonant guitar. The track, which follows a sleepy, solemn opener in "Asleep", is wonderfully punctuated by James Matthews' yelps ("I'm sorry I was never there," he pines, illustrating his repentance, "But at the time, I didn't really care"). His clean vocals in the verses further amplify the song's gusto, but are better-placed in the album's heavy, dissonant title track. In "What's Left of Me", his hoarse pleading is underscored by an vigorous bass line, providing decidedly sturdy support in the latter half of What's Left of Me
's emphatic 1-2 punch.
Although the vitriolic tirades are the band's bread-and-butter, there are a number of songs that gravitate more towards an alternative keel: look no further than lead single "Do You Remember" with its interwoven vocals and atmospheric backdrop. I know I railed against lyrics that pass as awful, underdeveloped adolescent poetry earlier, but "Do you remember that awkward smile when we first met / That childish love we should have kept? / Do you remember falling in and out of love and hate together, do you remember the good times as well as I do? / Feels like it should have lasted forever" is beautifully nostalgic and immediately relatable. We might believe - for better or worse - that we have our shit together, but still be guilty of feeling young and naive.
There are some additional ingredients thrown into the album - the strings in the final half of closer "Love is Not Enough", the meekly spoken vocals in the introspective "Threshold" paling in comparison to the warmer guitars, the pensive piano in "Do You Remember" - but they are not particularly effectual. Songs like "Seasons Change" and "You're Not Alone" come and go, but the guitars fail to clamor for attention in the same way that "Sometimes"' captivating riffs or memorable lead guitars do, or the manner in which "Weight of the World"'s cathartic energy is engrossing. While there is greater variation in vocal delivery here than on past works, not all of it is engaging. In fact, on What's Left of Me
, More Than Life are not at their best when straddling the hardcore/alternative fence, but when their penchant for anthemic melodies shines brightest. Because it showcases the band's maturity and solidifies their hold as one of the UK's most promising hardcore acts, What's Left of Me
is a valuable addition to the band's catalog and certainly meets expectations; however, its vitality going forward might run shorter than expected.
"Weight of the World"
"What's Left of Me"
"Do You Remember"