Review Summary: Re-write the wrongs.
In truth, The Early November's comeback had no right being as good as it was. These days, being a dedicated music listener comes with an in-built, pre-set cynicism which makes every reunion tour, comeback album and b-sides & rarities collection nothing more than a sordid dash for easy money. Of course, that's not to say that this isn't frequently a fair assumption, but it suits us as lovers of music to sometimes give bands the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of their intentions. This is especially true in the case of The Early November, when their comeback actually turned out better than their original run.
was one of those albums which is just perfect with or without context – building on the band's previous work to make something which stays true to their beginnings at the core, while constantly testing the boundaries and remaining passionate in execution. Imbue
is an excellent continuation of that same ideal. But whereas In Currents
could essentially be sliced in three to show the acoustic ballads, the poppy singles and the heavier tracks, Imbue
attempts to merge the styles into one.
What this results in is an album which flows far better as one conceptual piece than any other TEN album except The Path
, but with a deficiency of standouts on the level of the timeless "Ever So Sweet". It seems clear that Ace and co. have spent a lot of effort funneling their various influences into a seamless whole; songs are built on echo-laden, jangly guitar licks, paired with colossal choruses and overlaid with the cleverly self-aware lyrics that Enders excels at. That's not to say that it's the same the whole way through: there is a beautiful slow jam in "Harmony", which is saved from ballad territory by the energetic drumming of Jeff Kummer, and an adrenaline shot of what For All of This
-era TEN would sound like in 2015 with "Nothing Lasts Forever".
Of all the benefits the updated songwriting method grants Imbue
, perhaps the greatest is how it allows the vastly improved voice of Ace Enders to shine, and that's exactly what it does. Whether he's sticking to a delicate near-falsetto ("Harmony") or roaring his way to a near-scream on titanic choruses ("Narrow Mouth", "I Don't Care"), it's nigh impossible to believe this is the same kid who yelped his way into our eardrums with high-school soundtrack "Every Night's Another Story". Lyrically, he also continues the far-improved work from The Mother, The Mechanic and The Path
onwards: whether reliving those same high school years with a more cynical hindsight on "Boxing Timelines" or reminiscing grimly about the place of passion in a digital age of music on the album closer. Pop-punk bands in our day have a habit of peaking quickly and then fading into obscurity, probably due to the angsty teenage energy that characterises the genre. Yet ever since the hugely ambitious The Mother, The Mechanic and the Path
it's been blatantly obvious that The Early November are more than just your "All The Small Things" cover band, and somehow more than ten years on they remain as relevant as ever.