Review Summary: A sonic hatred that is easy to love.
I’ve often said that Such Gold is the most underrated punk band of the modern era. A strong discography (10 years in the making) has earned the band little more than a dedicated fanbase that often feels like a niche of a niche of the scene. So, when lead vocalist/guitarist Ben Kotin and bassist Jon Markson teamed up with ex-Such Gold member Skylar Sarkis (who takes Ben’s place here for lead vocal duties) to start a new band, the one that brings us this album, I was a bit confused. Initially it seemed to fill a similar role to the band it stemmed from, and while I enjoyed their previous album, Life As A Bro
, I was left a bit confused as to why the best ideas from that record weren’t just being used for Such Gold songs.
Well, after listening to this album, I finally get it.
With I Hate Me
, the band has really upped the ante from the previous record to deliver something that feels cohesive, varied, and enjoyable start to finish. Considered in conjunction with that album, this feels like a considerable improvement. The record is no longer comprised of stretches of serviceable songs that feel like superfluous interims between the highlights. All of the songs on I Hate Me
have memorable moments - hooks that engage the listener before they have a chance to appreciate the beauty of the all the math madness going on.
It really can’t be overstated how important this is, as this is something that instrumentally-skilled musicians can easily fail to achieve. Each song having a trademark “moment” sets up I Hate Me
to be a real grower right from the beginning, and it was essential in my experience with the album that led me to ultimately loving it as much as I do now. After a first listen, I couldn’t really say that I “loved” the album. Yet, it established to me that it had depth and intrigue, and although I couldn’t quite come to a conclusion on how I felt about it, I knew that I would be coming back to find out just what that conclusion would be.
So what are some of these moments? Album opener “Big Fish” culminates with these eerie, powerful gang vocals that roar out a memorable melody which demands attention.
Next, title track “I Hate Me" fires out of the gate with Skylar Sarkis’ effective harsh vocals, culminating with a sorrowful, winding guitar line that eases the listener into the next track. Similar parts appear a few more times throughout the album, such as during “The Problem”, which is certainly one of the more atmospheric tracks here. There’s even more straightforward, melodic tracks such as the “Stranger Who Stares” and “There’s No Way”, which serve to round out the album’s more accessible side. Ultimately, I found that each song gave me a reason to remember it, which of course makes the album feel strong as a whole.
In this way, the album also achieves a strong sense of cohesion, which it capitalizes on with certain recurring ideas and leitmotifs. A titular refrain occurs throughout the album, in a sort of haunting manner, popping up during intense moments such as the breakdown at the end of “Lifer”. Anyone who has ever dealt with depression/self-loathing will likely find this little touch hauntingly relatable. You meet many different problems, but once things to start to break down all of these different issues seemed to be backed by a single foundation: I hate me. Perhaps then, they all have a single solution? For me, this sobering theme is what the album primarily communicates.
Overall, I Hate Me
feels calculated, emotional, and professional, which highlights the point I’ve beaten to death about this group of songwriters: they don’t get nearly as much credit as they should. Also, I've yet to mention Dan Abzug's work on this album, but let it be known that the drumming here is absolutely incredible start to finish, with unique beats and good usage of dynamics peppered throughout the entire thing. I encourage any fans of punk or alternative rock who want something with a little more depth, nuance, and straight up weirdness to check this record out. I have no doubt it is one of the most interesting and memorable punk records that 2019 will bring.