Review Summary: I've got to write these songsGatsby's American Dream
begins with a half-truth. Over a hazy bloom of guitars, Nic Newsham flatly announces 'I'm not mad, I'm just tired, and it makes me sad, at least it makes me something different'
. The album proper immediately kicks into high gear, but it's a crucial calm before the storm, and practically confrontational in its dramatic irony; never mind that the song shortly has Newsham theatrically proclaiming 'I'll speak the truth so you know I mean it'
. Gatsby's American Dream
is a venomous, highly concentrated atom bomb aimed squarely at the music industry and any sucker gullible enough to believe in it, the band themselves absolutely included. In all facets (musically, lyrically, emotionally), it only allows one other instance for Newsham, the band, and the listener to catch their breath and they milk it for all it's worth: Newsham audibly taking a deep breath and yelping 'I am empty!'
, his voice quivering with visceral exhaustion.
At all other times, the album is a downright claustrophobic affair, every song zipping by in a little over 3 minutes overflowing with hyperactive riffs, relentless hooks and lyrical bloodletting. It's a dizzying amalgam of sticky power pop, low slung grungy grit and histrionic alternative rock that Newsham and company lay waste to. Vitriol seeps through on every song as Newsham caustically jokes and callously calls out the people that have made life a living hell for the band. Sometimes, it's downright hilarious: over stomping piano and galloping drums, the singer deadpans 'You ***ing kids have got to learn the golden rule, you gotta use who you can on the way to the middle'
. Other times, it's plain brutal: utilizing a worker bee metaphor to disturbing effect, "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" posits 'We've raped the nectar from patches deep, cuz if it tastes like honey then it must be sweet!'
. Buzzsaw riffs and playful piano simultaneously dance with each other and wrestle for control until songs collapse in a fuming, worn out gasp.
Gatsby's American Dream
does not let anyone off the hook, and it's far from being a swan song for the band; it's a reckoning that ends in self-sacrifice. Everything comes to a head on closing track "The White Mountains", a final kick to the ribs disguised as a triumphant climax. It gradually becomes considerably more spacious and upbeat, with a genuinely celebratory chorus matched with cresting guitars and raucous drumming exuding a parting-of-the-clouds feeling. Of course, it doesn't last long, and it's so sadly fitting that the last song on their final album ends with Newsham intoning 'We can sing the way we like'
, the melody curdling in his throat. Nothing is resolved and all that awaits is a demise steeped in frustration and disillusionment. Knowing this, it's hard not to view the tracklisting as a bitter joke; "The White Mountains" feigns closure, but you start the album again, and the band immolates itself in a blaze of glory, saying and singing whatever they damn well please. Gatsby's American Dream
is a point of no return, and rightfully so: the truth will set you free.