About 3 years ago, NJ's Trophy Scars were one of the most promising bands around. The 'Hospital Music' EP had just been self released. 6 tracks of forward thinking, progressive post-hardcore. Jerry's voice was different to the rest of the scene, yelling in a style reminiscent of the Blood Brothers if they hadn't adopted the tight jeans and were partial to smoking weed on a daily basis. Nothing has changed. Jerry still whines in his own little way. He's still probably one of my favorite vocalists around, purely because of the originality.
For the past 5 or so weeks, the Scars had been uploading various new songs onto Myspace, and to be honest, things weren't looking good. Assistant. Assistants had a cheesy sliding octave intro, and a sing-along chorus that brought the other band members to the fore, pushing Jerry back behind the guitars and drums to just yelps of 'Oh Yeah!' Things weren't looking up. But when the album fell through my door last weekend a week early on pre-release, that wasn't quite the case.
On first thoughts, An Introduction. All Introductions
is different. Plain acoustic with some harmonising, brought forward after a few bars by a nice distorted tone and Jerry singing quietly about Critics and mentioning the book 'The Scarlet Letter'
(where the 'A' theme for the album is derived) This carries for just over a minute before bursting into the first track proper.
is one of the highlights of the album, a fast song with various melodic interludes, kind of like 'Hey Kiddo' from the 'Goodnight Alchemy' EP. Vocally, the song is Jerry in full form, spraying backwards and forwards between dynamics in different sections, and the guitars are melodic as always. The breakdown that occurs at about 1.10 thuds while Jerry and the other vocalists scream 'you're so sickening,'
a reoccurring refrain that is drawn back in throughout the song and helps to keep the pace. The 'Ex-girlfriend'
section in the middle of the song is also great, using simple lead lines in an eventual buildup to a crowd pleasing gang chant
however is a step down from the opening. Octave chords follow the vocal lines, sounding poppy as well as just genuinely unlike the Scars. After repeated listens the gang chant chorus mentioned beforehand becomes rather catchy, with underlying octaves adding melody and movement. A nice moment of simple music, where the listener doesn't always have to think about what is going on. The 'This is not me'
section following straight after this however, is a perk of the song, with the guitar stabs signalling a possible change in quality to the end of the song. Although the chant is brought back the ending is rather uplifting. It does grow with time, and I find it continually running through my head all day at times.Assassin. Assassins.
follows a better structure, beginning as a remake of old Trophy Scars song 'The Moche Skeleton Dance,' (Soulseek/Sand in the Sea B-sides cd) albeit more chilled and slightly reminiscent of 'Cats as a Measurement of Time,' with Jerry exploiting his stoner voice. Lyrically this is better, with lines such as 'we've suited our hearts with the words of our tongues'
interspersed with more random lyrics regarding 'babies in blenders,'
which were in the original version. I should probably note here that while a limited few of Jerry's lyrics aren't exactly amazing, it is the style in which he pulls them off that astounds. Plus, meaningwise, a lot of his songs have much more depth than you'd expect, with songs like Lesson 3 from Goodnight... being super existential. The final outro of 'My Bonnie sails over the ocean'
is a highlight of this track, before we see something we haven't seen from the Scars before.
Jerry always said he was a fan of Hip Hop, and this has always shown in the way he organises his lyrics. But putting a rap break in as an outro? Yeahhh. It's not that bad either, performed by a guest rapper as the band jams out a pretty and clean backdrop behind him. Although I’d like to see what interesting things they could have done by themselves, without this guy getting involved. This is also seen in Accent. Accents,
the following interlude, where electronic music ala Reason - delayed piano and all - act as the music for a short rap between Jerry and rapper Kadence Prose, friends from the Bronx during childhood. The following track Apparition. Apparitions
is a growing story (told backwards by Jerry), building from a moody minor key lead line harmonisation to a fully distorted climax. Lyrically it isn't bad either, with a growing storyline. Later track Alligator. Alligators
uses this, although with a swung 3/4 style, which scarily reminds me of fairgrounds. That said, it's a good track, with a nice lyrical idea, that eventually builds into a guitar solo.
Can be classed as one song. No is basically the breakdown of Yes, with a solo, and then some more riffage. They aren't bad, although the Scars have done better songs in this vein - fast, with multiple vocals coming across on stereo and lots of yells. Here is my own real lyrical issue, as one or two of the lines are very cliché. Sorry Jerry, but I'm not gunna stick up for those. Just this once though.
The intro to the following track however is beautiful. Scalic runs on clean, heavily delayed guitars and a slowly thumping drumbeat start Absolute. Absolutes.
off well. Jerry cross references other songs by the band towards the end, targeting lyrics at classic scars songs such as Eyes Baptized in Mercury, Designed like Dice and Cats as a Measurement... It's a nice break from the rest of the album, topped off by a piano refrain from arguably the best track of the album, Alchemist. Alchemists.
This song uses the Scars technique of slow chord changes, amazingly well timed and pronounced drumming and high lead runs to create a rather epic track. The piano makes an appearance in the buildup at the end too, along with soloing leads and a well timed breakdown. Best song on the album?
is also great. Off kilter riffs open at the start, with a heavily compressed lead guitar sounding almost like a keyboard, entwining with the other instruments in 3/4 time. It's obviously about drugs, metaphorical or otherwise. Like a good Scars song, this once again moves through various musical stages, with a staccato riff in the middle providing a good dance point, then running into a chromatic harmonising lead riff. Something sounding suspiciously like a melody horn even appears in the background at one point. One point I haven't mentioned yet is the skill of Brian on the drums. He holds the beat incredibly well, and has a knack for anticipating moments in songs, and emphasises these well with rolls, and fast snare hits, with the occasional double bass.
Outro piano piece Anxiety. Anxieties
is also nice, a change from the rest of this album, Jerry sums up the meanings of the album, with the clean piano and guitar building slowly. Nice alliteration makes the lyrics flow well, and the overall effect is a pretty and calm track that proves a good closing point to the album. Track 16, I really don't see necessary. But it's there. Just a guitar solo with a crowd.
On the whole, it's a good album. Better than Goodnight Alchemy, it brings lots of new ideas to the table, and pulls off most of them well. They're still pushing the post-hardcore scene, even if some of the ideas don't always hit home.