Review Summary: A thoroughly impressive work showing equal amounts current talent and promise
To say that I dislike post-hardcore would be a laughable understatement. However, Crooks is a band that I've given a chance thanks to more than one person recommending them to me. To say their EP impressed me would be stretching things, but considering how much I dislike the genre, I was surprised at how much I didn't hate it. And so here we are, a year after I heard their EP, with their debut "Are We All The Same Distance Apart". Does it live up to it's EP's non-awfulness?
The first thing I was impressed by was how clean the vocals were. While I love harsh, "metal" vocals, they did NOT fit the music on their EP or in post-hardcore in general. With this new album, it's almost entirely clean vocals. On top of being clean, these vocals are AWESOME. Singer Josh Rogers gives one of the best vocal performances of 2015, balancing power with emotional venerablity. He never sounds whiny either, which is always a plus. Something that also stuck out vocally was that there is quite a bit of multi-tracking vocals, best shown on the title track. For those who don't know, multi tracking is taking multiple sound sources and combining them, in this case multiple vocals. Mr. Rogers (neighborhood) basically harmonizes with himself. It never comes across as poppy or as antithetic as it could have, which works usually, but there are moments where they would have gone further into a pop style and gone for a more antithetic sound. However, while his vocals are better than that of most of his competitors, it still is in a similar style. Better or not, they aren't the most memorable.
While the band doesn't stand out too much vocally outside of simply being better, musically they are very different than most any band out there. While I could talk about individual performances here, I think the most impressive thing about Crook UK is how darn well they mesh musically. Everyone works as a team. It's like a post-hardcore AC/DC (if AC/DC knew how to write more than 1 song). They all work as one cohesive unit. If I had to pick out one thing particularly good here, I'd have to say the drumming is very good. It never sounds like it's trying to take over the music, but it's very interesting in its own right, something that I find not very many drummers can really do. The song "A Few Peaceful Days" has a drum break and really highlights just how intricate and good the drumming here is.
While the guitar work isn't as impressive as the drumming, it's pretty great in it's own way. Even during the slow and soft sections, the guitars still sound great, adding atmosphere and almost background noise. Kind of like a movie soundtrack, a lot of the time you don't notice it, but the movie would be WEIRD without it. During the loud times, they always have something interesting to say (well, play) and rarely repeat riff ideas. It isn't a super diverse album, but no two songs have the same tempo on this album. Better yet, even during the slower songs, the music is just as energetic, and in some ways a lot more interesting. My favorite song here "Dear Reader" shows this perfectly.
The lyrics here aren't amazing, but they destroy that of most of their peers. Simply put, they are more personal. Rather than vague terms and themes that could apply to just about anyone, here the anger and sadness is directed at very clear people. They often resort to typical metaphors, but they know how to express these metaphors better than most. If these boring metaphors are like a bad salad at Wendy's, then Crook UK's certainly have some great dressing to put on there. While the lyrics are the least extraordinary thing here, they are still very good. At the very least, they're above average.
"Are We All The Same Distance Apart?" shows that post-hardcore is a dying genre instead of one that is already dead. While that may sound like an insult, it really isn't. They're one of the few bands that are able to breath anything even coming close to resembling life into this walking corpse of a subgenre. While this does little to give me a more favorable view of post-hardcore, it does show me that the genre isn't devoid of talent, and is no doubt one of my favorite albums of 2015. It isn't revolutionary, but it's assuredly stunning.