Review Summary: Hometown heroes, on a rainy day
Anchoress’ heart, as a hardcore band eking out a living in Vancouver BC, comes from a place of need and not want. Luxury is eschewed in their scrappy anthems, built on a handful of chords and quarter time. As “Closing Up Zhop” presents it, art isn’t just a hobby, it’s lifeblood; and venues are shelters for the eternally youthful soul.
To add some context: living in Vancouver is fucking expensive, especially when it comes to rent. A specific numerical figure from Anchoress: “Your two jobs (maybe more) still won’t make rent”. An infamous section of town is the Downtown Eastside, mentioned in “Bill Walks West”, centred around Main and Hastings St. It’s where the homeless congregate. A fair amount of music venues can be found in the area; the rent’s cheaper there after all. For all its seediness, the Downtown Eastside is culturally valuable - it has a high concentration of artists, and its residents form a symbol of resilience against gentrification. The idea of art persisting despite economic deprivation (sometimes, maybe even because of it) is what inspires battle hymns on Anchoress Is Ruining My Life
Anchoress do sing (or more specifically, shout in a spoken word style) about wage-slave drudgery, but fortunately their sound represents fighting spirit and not drudgery itself. At their angriest, the rhythm section takes precedence - snappy, light-footed drums on a medium-high speed pursuit, bassline being placed on equal level with the guitars. The riffing is lean, mean, meant to be percussive. “Icaro”, with its gang vocals and compressed length, is the epitome of pissed-off Anchoress. On the slower end, tracks like “Fir” and “All Colours” build around developed melodic leads, as opposed to the more repetitive riffing of “Icaro”. They take their time to play around with longer motifs. When Anchoress bring the tempo down, grimaces become lopsided smiles - “we fought for our craft beers, better pay for our teachers”, but “we will always find something to complain about”. Songs are replete with opportunities for shout-alongs, and the bass often takes charge of hooks.
I greatly admire Anchoress’ wit - it hits home pretty literally when I hear the part on “Fir” that goes “Just another beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest // The rain will never stop; the rain will never stop me”. I grin at the chant in “The Fuzz” - “D. B. A. A. // Don’t be an asshole” is a very blunt way of calling out uppity policemen. So sure, Anchoress are antagonistic towards things that are easy to hate. But I hear their optimism too, which shines through in “All Colours” as it builds from despondent musing to a call for self-actualization. There’s no “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” shtick; instead, it’s just taking cautious steps forward, a song ending on an open note, a trace of light appearing amidst ambiguity.
I think I get where Anchoress are coming from with the album title. They’ve laid out the economic formulas: being in a band = financial drain; financial drain = even fewer resources for being in a band; but not being in a band = no desire to live on, so why bother lessening financial drain by working a bunch of low-paying jobs. And so, Anchoress come together, bring their instruments, and proceed to continue ruining their lives.