Review Summary: For no other reason than to show their fanbase they still have a pulse.
Ah yes, Jeromes Dream; Infamous Connecticut skramz outfit, a local favorite from my childhood stomping grounds. Their debut album, "Seeing Means More Than Safety," propelled the 3-piece band to some major underground recognition. They quickly became a household name in the screamo community, one that shared the spotlight with legendary acts such as Envy, Saetia, Pg. 99, and Orchid (whom they collaborated with on a split 10", an EP that remains one of my favorites of the genre to this very day.) Of course, this was for good reason. The dizzying, nauseating, and abrasive sound they concocted could go toe-to-toe with some of the heaviest material from many popular metalcore and mathcore acts, yet they retained a sweet touch of melody to give off an angsty and emotional vibe, a vibe that so many emoviolence acts attempted to recreate. But no group during that golden era of skramz had the talent to make their music sound as moody or authentic as Jeromes Dream. They were a freak of nature, a group of dudes that could crank out filthy and powerful avant-garde music that resonated with fans of all things hardcore.
Like many bands in the late 90's to early 00's screamo scene, Jeromes Dream was short lived, and they ended up disbanding in 2001. Which is why I was very surprised when in 2018, the band announced that they would be recording a new album. Most of the time, bands like this simply make the decision to stay dead, solidifying themselves as "that cool band that made that that one amazing album," their past discography left to be reminisced and tossed around for all of its replay value. But with the release of a new website and the announcement of an upcoming tour, it became more and more apparent that the boys were trying to take another crack at their craft, and a serious one at that. As usual in these revivalist situations, I didn't get my hopes up for this record. A nearly 2 decade long disconnect between musicians can cause any band to become rusty, and rarely do comeback albums manage to rekindle the fire that made a group's past efforts pop and explode. More often than not, they're flops, flukes that garner little to no praise and are left to be forgotten in a few months worth of time.
Yet with all that in mind, I still couldn't have prepared myself for this level of disappointment. Because "LP" isn't Jeromes Dream. It isn't even a shell of their former selves. It's an entirely different beast, except it's not a beast at all; it's an old house cat that just woke up from its afternoon nap, tired and confused.
"LP" does absolutely nothing to capture the frantic, spastic energy that made Jeromes Dream such a profound and interesting band to begin with. There's no blast beats, no panicked riffing, no transitions back and forth between calm and calamity to keep the listener hooked, sitting on the edge of their seat, wondering what will happen next. Instead, the instrumentals offer nothing more than a heaping pile of dime-a-dozen, lazily written post-hardcore over the course of their 30 minute runtime. This is quite the common occurrence for formerly distressed youth turned adults, ones that used to belt out bursts of sonic musical composition and skull-splitting shrieks, who are now tired of playing that way and opt for a more mature approach, therefore losing their electrifying edge in the process (I'm looking at you, Pianos Become The Teeth). And this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's usually average at best, monotonous to say the worst, and it certainly doesn't seal the fate of a record. But there is one painfully obvious flaw that truly hammers the nail into the proverbial coffin that Jeromes Dream have made for themselves on "LP..."
The vocal performance.
Bassist and frontman Jeff Smith warned fans prior to the release of "LP" that his signature wails would be absent on the new record, as his pipes have been shredded after years of abuse in the name of artistic expression. That's completely understandable, as I'm sure no one would want to risk developing lymph nodes or losing their voice altogether over a project, no matter how many people are going to listen to it. But if you're aware that people are drawn to your music for its vocal approach whilst also being aware that you can no longer engage in said vocal approach, why not bring on another member to replicate those screams and howls for you instead of cranking out (of all things) half-assed yells, if you could even call them that? They're so deadpan and lifeless that they practically teeter on the edge of spoken word, though calling it that would be a crime against bands such as La Dispute, as the the lyrics aren't poetic and neither is the delivery. Even if the vocals and lyricism did have those elements by their side, it wouldn't change the fact that they're so poorly recorded and low in the mix that the words being uttered are completely unintelligible, to the point where Smith sounds like a drunk father trying to to yell something important in his state of intoxication, but it just comes out as slurred, exhausted moans. This, combined with the already muddy strings and the flat drums, make for an extremely muddy and dull sound, one that just goes on and on, pausing briefly between each cut before moving on to the next.
This is a running theme throughout the entire course of this uninteresting drone of an album, from start to finish. Essentially (and I hate to say it) "LP" is the "St. Anger" of post-hardcore; the production is lackluster and flat, the songwriting is monotonous and uninspired, and Smith's cringey yelps are Lars Ulrich's snare drum, sticking out like a sore thumb and ruining any possible moment where the listener might be able to find an interesting chord progression or a solid melody.
All in all, "LP" is a excruciatingly boring, awkward, and underwhelming effort from a band whose originality and charisma has clearly gone way past its expiration date. It's an album that seems like its only purpose is to say "Hey, we're still alive." Meat and potatoes can still taste great if you season them properly. Instead, Jeromes Dream decide to just toss us a plate of raw steak and frozen french fries for the sake of feeding empty stomachs.
No thanks guys, I think I'll just starve.