Review Summary: I know I need to change – but I’m fucked in the head.
Since the inception of The Plot In You through to the lonely meanderings of Dynamite
, Landon Tewers has always retained a potent intimacy that continues to compel.
Despite a somewhat mixed reception towards the latest The Plot In You effort, Dispose
, it was at least hard to not appreciate the more emotionally charged beats of the album: ‘Feel Nothing’ and ‘Rigged’ both offer a soothing build before finally delivering the heavier goods, while also easily displaying the growing influence of Tewers’ solo efforts throughout the group, especially when compared to the far heavier (and far more warmly received) Happiness In Self Destruction
. While enthusiastic fans of The Plot In You’s heavier direction may have despaired at the appearance of a softer approach, frontman Landon Tewers’ addition of Dynamite
-esque material seemed to only be scratching the surface of an itch that ran far deeper, seeping into the band’s material with little restraint or apology on behalf of any members within the post-hardcore four-piece.
Indeed, this is where Withdrawals
truly steps into the spotlight, and where the inclinations of Dynamite
rear unapologetically: while the likes of the blues-driven ‘Need to Change’ and guilt-ridden ‘Sick Obsession’ offered a potently raw insight into Tewers’ psyche through a primary acoustic-rock medium, ‘Cooped Up’ is as close to Withdrawals
gets, far more pop-rock compared to the crooning sombre call of ‘I May Be Evil’. Instead, much of Withdrawals
croons through a significantly heavier emphasis on electronic instrumentation and layering, doing away with most of the acoustics of Dynamite
to instead lean on Dispose
’s moody electronics and haunting ambience. The result? Well, it’s damn near harrowing at times.
Let’s take ‘Threatening’ as a perfect reintroduction to Landon Tewers’ solo efforts – forget ‘Something to Lose’ for just a brief moment and shut that out of your mind, this comes later and as a result of a far more emotionally charged payoff. Indeed, the use of ‘Something to Lose’ as a leading single almost feels misleading when taking into consideration the exquisite building tension of ‘Threatening’ and ‘Touched Your Skin’ that eventually
culminates in ‘Something To Lose’, arguably the album’s first real
song. ‘Threatening’ is exactly as it claims to be: the mood is tense, miserably foreboding, and delightfully conveys the implications of the track’s title, a horror movie-esque instrumental direction that does everything in its power to emphasise that this opening chapter is not
one to a happy story. In other words, despite musically being a radical divergent from the blues acoustics of Dynamite
is exactly what it needs to be to follow on from what Dynamite
established, and ‘Touched Your Skin’s perfect transition from ‘Threatening’ through to ‘Something to Lose’ emphasises this fact fantastically. Where the brief raw acoustic guitar appearance and foreboding synthesisers of ‘Threatening’ do everything possible to establish an uncomfortable unease with the listener, ‘Touched Your Skin’s gloomy reverb-heavy vocals through to full on screaming finally lets loose an aggression that feels genuinely unnerving.
Indeed, when ‘Something To Lose’ does eventually step into the limelight, soothing and softly delivered pop-friendly vocals and lovingly delivered entailments of ”you give me something to lose
, this quickly finds itself contrasted with the exasperated frustration of ’I waited for you, I walked holes in my shoes, with dumb f*cking soul sucking leeches it’s true
’. As a note, this is a description that finds itself very
relevant to the direction of Withdrawals
: “contrast”. With every step in a singular direction, Tewers seems very much at odds with himself, abruptly changing the direction of the record with little warning or apology. For example, with ‘Something To Lose’s two minutes of gentle pop-rock adoration regarding a third party that compels his attention, there will suddenly be the ‘Bad Guy’-esque abrupt shift into a completely new direction musically, with ‘Something To Lose’ instead ending on 20 seconds of sinister pulsating beats and synthesisers, before ‘Never Whole’s sweetly offered longing towards emotional completion takes over. It’s a contrast that seems jarring in the moment, yet breaks that gap between the two tracks sufficiently enough to warrant its existence, despite an initial response of confusion that the listener is likely to experience.
This again appears through ‘She Thinks of Me’ a cocky companion track to the already ridiculously cocky ‘Do What I Gotta Do’ of Dynamite
. While slower paced and a little more sinister in an instrumental direction almost on the verge of jazz, the boastful arrogance through Tewers lyricism (“she likes the bags under my eyes, sitting in her thighs
” or the blatant “she thinks of me, when she’s f*cking you
) should easily cause a reaction of irritation or simple disgust. It seems very much ‘Do What I Gotta Do 2.0’ for much of its duration, with most of Tewers’ boastings being allowed free reign, but it’s where ‘She Thinks of Me’ ends that ultimately proves the most interesting point. Instead of more bravado, the final eleven seconds sees the track abruptly disintegrating with the inclusion of gunshot sound effects and a disapproving crowd of listeners booing loudly as a result, and Tewers’ simply atoning ”alright, yeah I get it. Alright, the gunshots. Too far, it’s too far. Let’s end this song now.
” The effect of such an ending is immediately noticeable: the track’s potency in implying Tewers’ sexual prowess and “bad guy attitude” is instantly dismantled, and Tewers’ final mutterings are instead those of a self-conscious awareness that he has once again offended, meekly backing down in the face of social disapproval as opposed to angrily lashing back and continuing the song gunshots galore.
Indeed, any of Withdrawals
more R&B-heavy tracks follow a similar vein, often thinly disguising a very obvious self-consciousness behind various demeanours that may as well not exist at all: ‘Sleeping in the Benz’s reference to the life of luxury implied by such a car sits comfortably within the chirps and pops of any typical mid-tempo R&B single, but Tewers’ vocal delivery borders on apathetic for most of the track. Sure, ponderings of ”tell my friends I messed up, I won’t do this again”
certainly seem apologetic, but above all else, Tewers just simply sounds tired
. True to this point, ‘Brush Street’s gorgeously calm soundscape and sombre vocal performances between Tewers and Chantell Moody, to the following desperation seen throughout ‘I Don’t Wanna Be the One That Let You Go’ only further continues the spiralling trend that the deeper Withdrawals
leads, the less energy Tewers appears to have left to give. It proves itself one of Withdrawals
strongest points that gradually creeps forward, and it’s ultimately hard to ignore that the album is in fact very exhausting
to listen to at times. It’s only when album finale ‘I’m Good’ hits that a slight shining light has any hope of piercing through at all.
Closing the Withdrawals
affair, ‘I’m Good’ (feat. Some Methhead) stands as the only truly upbeat offering of the album, especially when compared to its darkest cuts, and as far as breaching the surface is concerned ‘I’m Good’ is the closest to fresh air Landon Tewers is prepared to give. Similar to Dynamite
’s ‘Cooped Up’, ‘I’m Good’ is an attempt to end the album on a slightly higher note thematically, and when Tewers’ gentle “oooh”s and jazz-infused final few moments closes Withdrawals
for good, it is at least done on the briefest glimmer of light. Sure, the previous eight tracks may very well have rung some alarm bells to indicate a seething, deeply rooted collection of psychological issues, but Tewers at least tries to present ‘I’m Good’s demeanour as a genuine one.
As a whole, critically examining Withdrawals
proves itself somewhat difficult when considering the overall nature of the album. There will easily be those awaiting the newest The Plot In You record with baited breath while discarding Withdrawals
indifferently, but to do so feels extremely wasteful: similar again to Dynamite
, Tewers newest offering again allows plenty of unapologetic insight into a psyche that clearly sits in a very unhappy place. Just as ‘Threatening’ indicates, this isn’t a positive or upbeat record, but those familiar with the frontman’s previous material should be well accustomed to this by now. From ‘Something to Lose’s beautifully delivered performance through to the gut-wrenching delivery of ‘I Don’t Wanna Be the One That Let You Go’, Withdrawals
sits comfortably next to the likes of PVRIS’ All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell
thematically, and is infinitely more potent an experience as a result.