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The year is 2013. The “emo revival” is in its heyday. Some newly-formed groups are just getting their foot in the door aping the sounds of their contemporaries and 90s inspirations. Some are showing more promise, but only time will tell whether their initial success will outlast the fad they ride in on.
I’ll let your own tastes determine who belongs in those two categories, but Derby-based Crash of Rhinos were surely part of a third: their members had already been playing together for the better part of a decade in other emo bands, continuing on the niche legacy of that scene before it became a momentary sensation, and combined the quintet had enough experience and foresight to set themselves apart from the sprouting movement around them. Sadly, not long after the release of their sophomore album, Knots
, an especially mathy, post-rocky offering that practically screamed “look at us, we’ve got this, we know what you want and we can do it even crazier,” the band dissolved.
Six years later, the musical landscape has changed. For better or worse, emo is no longer the sound of the season it once was, and those who lacked the tenacity or originality to grab the trend by its horns and hang on have fallen by the wayside. Enter Holding Patterns. Endless
is technically their “debut” album, though it’s spiritually a comeback album, as it features three former members of Crash of Rhinos. Downsizing with one less guitarist and one less bassist (let’s be real, two’s a crowd in the low end), the new power trio began writing in 2016 with the same mentality that had previously guided them: be hooky, get raucous, and have fun. This time, though, despite starting anew, the pressure to prove themselves is lessened.
And you can hear it. Where some of Crash of Rhinos’ output predicated itself on a degree of complexity for complexity’s sake, Holding Patterns’ reduced lineup seizes an opportunity for the remaining band to make more out of less. Instead of utilizing various loopers or layers upon layers of overdubs, Endless
shows off a group operating with the fat mostly trimmed—only a scattering of inconsequential one-minute interludes detract from an otherwise tight and confident batch of songs slowly fine-tuned over a two-year period.
Beyond that minimal simplification, the band's core formula hasn’t changed much. Jim Cork’s guitar lines still produce a mixture of gorgeous arpeggiated twinkles and grittier punk-influenced riffage while Oli Craven’s playful presence behind the kit propels the band’s energy at their grooviest and most tender moments alike. Songs crest and recede with an effortless ear for dynamics, and while to a point the album is characterized more by workmanlike consistency and impeccable balance than it is a batch of jawdropping moments, that’s only further proof of Holding Patterns’ success in reining themselves in without sacrificing their appeal or forgetting their roots.
That said, there’s another reason I can’t single out any one musician for stealing the show here, and it’s that Endless
boasts a powerful calling card: three-part vocal harmonies. Cork, Craven, and bassist Ian Draper all contribute, trading the mic from one song or stanza to the next only to erupt together in stupendous climaxes like those of early single “At Speed,” album centerpiece “Dust,” and the 8-minute epic “House Fire.” Their voices are relatively similar, all marked by a slight gruff rasp, though their range and timbre vary enough for each one to be individually distinguishable and lend their featured sections unique character. Even more importantly, their literal shared voice bestows Endless
with that ubiquitous sense of communal camaraderie that can elevate even the most lethargic of emo records, and this album is certainly a step above that on its instrumental merit as well.
With the pressure to overshadow a scene gone, a humble realization that nothing is guaranteed becomes the album's defining trait. Lyrically, seemingly inspired by Crash of Rhinos’ fallout, Endless
is fixated on concepts of indiscriminate chance and unrealized closure. “Centered at Zero” finds its narrator “just a speck on a ball, spinning,” while the earworm refrain of “First Responder” raises a cry of “put out a call for your last name, but the calls keep coming back to me.” It’s easy, perhaps by design, to read the album as a string of disconnected tunes about frayed relationships, but conscious or not, the way this trio’s former band evaporated on the pinnacle of recognition seems to weigh on their mind. “For this to be forgotten, I’d have to be devoted to forgetting,” Cork shouts with all his heart on highlight “No Accident.” But even if the dissatisfaction from a past break-up of love or brotherhood lingers, it’s clear that Cork, Draper, and Craven haven’t lost their mojo—best case scenario, their success just got put on hold.
Pick up the phone.