Review Summary: [Redacted]
Artistic intent is a hell of a thing. Depending on how well known a band is, their desires are an open secret, while an obscure Bandcamp crusader may be content to drop their works quietly without a single interview to dredge up. You Will Always—a side-project of Alex Re from Counterparts—have enough information available, and by all accounts they appear to advance their material in a serious manner, not a hint of irony to detect. Musically, it’s difficult to deny that Dependent, Reliant
was built with care; melancholic numbers like “30 Days of Sun” accomplish a potent mood, the delicate acoustic strumming and stray piano of this particular cut complimenting Re’s despondent delivery, fashioning an airy aesthetic that proceeds slowly, gradually sinking hazy programming into the listener. Penultimate tune “You Will Never Beat It” similarly excels at constructing an atmosphere that imposes upon the audience the personal despair the vocalist experienced during the recording process. An intensity is found here that is tied to the emotional payoffs of hardcore, leaning into heavy guitars that aim for a cathartic climax, anguished harsh vocals cementing the message. Inserted into the same track listing are a plethora of formations dedicated to emo-tinged pop-punk that concentrate a sizable amount on f*cking. Re’s lyricism makes sweet love to both the f*cking process and the “I’m so f*cking mad!” version of f*cking. Naturally, emo is a label that immediately instills expectations of uncomfortably genuine prose, though this not necessarily to a fault; an open, honest story can be very easy to relate to, which makes a great deal of sense in a category that hinges on emotional investment. As with many trends, it is typically pushed to the brink until a definitive line in the sand can be drawn. Suffice to say, Dependent. Reliant
, for all its glimpses of brilliance, may have discovered it.
These issues are not purely relegated to the lyrical department, though that certainly invites discussion. The words aren’t the only aspect that put You Will Always and their supposedly no-nonsense approach under a microscope—that is, if the meme image serving as a cover wasn’t peculiar enough. Re bellowing out “Make me whole” repeatedly on the aforementioned “You Will Never Beat It” doesn’t sound like a tongue-in-cheek twist, but the misguided “It’s Ok,” which jarringly follows such an emotional peak, possesses a pop-punk attitude, outwardly sad in an authentic manner but slyly smiling behind the scenes, in on a private joke—look at how upfront we’re being!
. These contrasting moments make it difficult to pin down the debut LP as either a clever subversion or some friends getting together to vent about some failed relationships and sex. Boy talk, y’know? No matter the perspective taken, the evidence is inadequate to support any position. Multiple Counterparts-esque moments crop up outside of prior examples, weaseling their way into the straightforward romps the band composes, adding a bite to their version of pop-punk. A highlight in this regard is “Bknm928” and its powerful refrain that features Re nearing a scream as he yells it out. The upbeat tempo bounces along a robust bass line as a suitably addicting melody, not far removed from Alex’s main group, serves as the backdrop, ensuring that the song is an unavoidable earworm. Acting in opposition is the clashing ambiance offered by the electronic-infused, piano-led “High Enough.” Synths wash over the tune, taking more prominence than elsewhere, enveloping the album into a spacey atmosphere that suddenly interrupts itself with trap variables. It had already been a confusing number in context, but the unexpected turn made matters worse. Presumably, this is all to capture the sensation of being high, yet Re’s lackadaisical speech and the confusing instrumental choices do little except further question what the authors are up to.
Upon accessing the words penned by Alex, any inquiry into intent becomes an invocation of Roland Barthe as the artist is hastily pushed over a cliff, intent-less and f*ck-less. It must be clarified that being unassuming in lyricism is a tool in a writer’s arsenal; there is no positivity and negativity inherent to it. Much like any sort of arrangement, concept or genre, everything is reliant upon execution. Spanish Love Songs are raising a steady career based upon a heart-on-my-sleeve methodology, and Jeff Rosenstock isn’t always dressing up his phases. There is a market wide open for honesty—but perhaps not this. The stage is set from the introductory song aptly titled “Brutally Honest,” where Re greets the audience with “My life began at 28 / the years before were a little lame / Alright, I promise to be more poetic.” Possibly eliciting a laugh or two, the shtick becomes tired when, later in the same tune, Alex continues thusly:
“I couldn’t make a friend my wife. I couldn’t f*ck from the other side.
Have you been caught nodding off?
Does my admission make you cringe? I swear this could get a lot more grim.
I want you close, but stay the f*ck away.”
Being self-aware about unnervingly candid statements is a trope that’s been done before, yet “Brutally Honest” is completely devoted to it, with the entire song drowning if the audience doesn’t buy in. The incessant repetition of this joke makes it sour quickly. Comedy is subjective, but detecting a giggle from what appears to be an anal reference—I suppose Alex is admitting the backdoor is not his specialty? Does he not find it kinky? TMI? –is an arduous venture indeed (or perhaps he’s not into men? The rabbit hole is a dense one). It’s always a delicate tightrope to walk between ingratiating oneself to a listener and alienating through how lyricism is woven into a track. In the case of this number, Re punctuates every curse so that no sentence goes unnoticed. These dilemmas plague the singing output, as the lyrics are unescapable around every bend, consistently front and center. What proceeds on “Our Place” is quite similarly rough:
“All attention that you gave is slipping quick,
Not a word I could say would mean a ***.
No one cares about a boy with no care at all,
But no one f*cks a lonely guy who don’t f*ck enough.”
The atmosphere that You Will Always can spawn in a given moment is commendable, utilizing an effective movie sample to ground proceedings into a longing mood. Restrained percussion cooperates with the piano to let Alex’s dramatic performance to dominate, his voice adopting a trademark emo whine to it as he yells out as if portraying an anthem. Such a tactic unfortunately exposes the lyrics totally bare, rendering the gradual post-rock build up toothless when the prose clashes with Re’s powerful emotion. Leading into the eventual guitar explosion with “You know what… f*ck it,” makes for yet another awkward moment in a treasure trove of them. It causes a disconnect from the content of the release due to its prominence; the album becomes less enjoyable to get into when disagreeable lyrics are at the head of the charge.
Best possible scenarios are when the supporting collective is enough to box out Alex or when his writing features relatively fewer blunders. Forays a la “Bknm928” are infectious enough to distract from some of the more troublesome lines from Re’s pen, including lyrical homeruns in “You better f*ck me good / You better get me off / You gotta keep me here / It’s all on you.” Beyond the unfulfilled sexual urges of the album’s protagonist, there’s simply not enough memorability attached to the disc to push it beyond being the sum of its parts: a fun, albeit stereotypical, slice of pop punk that’d be at home playing supporting shows for Sorority Noise. Numbers that are dedicated solely to fabricating a disposition maintain a praiseworthy level of intrigue—“30 Days of Sun” has a tangible grace to it, f*cking notwithstanding, and it cannot be stated enough how evocative “You Will Never Beat It” manages to be, diminishing the rest of the surrounding 36-minute debut with its titanic strength. The passion coursing through the forthright, soul-bared lyrics, pulsing forward at the behest of jagged riffs and haunting melodies, is palpable. Should You Will Always had structured the record this way, it would have encapsulated the unbridled truthfulness that was envisioned without the unnecessary baggage of lackluster writing or generic pop-punk ventures. Caught somewhere in the middle between purpose and execution, the Ontario quartet come away from Dependent, Reliant
missing any notable factor that works in their favor, even when applying technical proficiency and a compact production—a clear labor of love that was sadly misguided. It’s an identity crisis that struggles to focus itself as either a punchline or heartfelt attempt. What seems apparent beyond speculation is that f*cking is absolute—but I’m not sure that was the intent.