Review Summary: Intelligent, catchy, well-rounded and dearly missed punk rock band's legacy, 32 minutes of punk rock genius.
Marathon are no more. In May 2006 they called it quits, after not even four years of playing riff-heavy melodic punk rock, most similar to bands like As Friends Rust
and Strike Anywhere
. The band, in their final statement explained it;
We have lived a life of consistent frustration. Bottomless financial debt, strained personal relationships, and the stress of being our own managers have made it very difficult at times to enjoy what we do. In addition, we have witnessed the saddening widespread erosion of the quality of the underground music scene. The bands that play for their love of music are far outnumbered by the bands that spend more time on their hair than practicing their guitars. It was simply exhausting to spend every night of tour seeing bands who play harmless, vacant songs, and whose obvious goals were to be catapulted to success on the merit of their appearance alone.
Now, you could argue that this is chickening out and that any band worth respect would push through, believe in themselves and ignore the trend-followers. But then again - you could just listen to this, their debut full-length, and you'd quickly come to realize that this is a band who was thoroughly dedicated to making good
music - qualities that (if one was to look at the bands that supposedly represent todays punk rock scene) aren't exactly mandatory. You'd be hard pressed to find a band like Marathon in a four-page spread in Kerrang! How so"
Well, Marathon really brought it
. 'It' in terms of well-written songs, 'it' in terms of intelligent lyrics, 'it' in terms of a characteristic and (in lack of a better word) fresh sound. Just take the opening track "Painting By Numbers
" (which topped my list for best songs of 2005) as an example. The lyrics are cleaver without sacrificing urgency, and are about war - or more specifically "about our role as the financiers of the military, and that we're the ones who bankroll these insane marches to war
" - through a filter of schoolyard metaphors ("We can deny these spoiled kids their next allowance, when they start shoving ‘round like bullies on the playground we shake our pockets for more change
"). The song is structured not so much around a traditional verse-chorus arrangement as it is around letting the song progress naturally to serve it's own greatness more than familiar patterns. Sweet guitar leads and exemplary drumming will keep you hooked to the climactic build-up at the end (where vocalist Aaron is left room to flex his vocal muscles, spanning over a bunch of octaves and dynamic styles). And that's just one song.
Sure, it's the best song on the album, but the bar is left high throughout. "Home is Where the Van Is
", obviously about living on touring, is another high-octane highlight. As is "Jolly Roger
", where the lyrics once again display an undeniably charming use of metaphors (for that matter, check out them dissecting their own use of metaphors in "Where We Hide
" - brilliant), this time about Peter Pan-complex and fear of growing up. The rest of the songs are all excellent in their own right and naming favourites seems obsolete given the rating I give this, but for good measure; check out doomsday prophecy "Gouge 'em Out, They're Useless Anyway
" and/or "Closing Time at the Distortion Factory
" for reference. It's just plain good music.
Dynamics is something this band doesn't shy from. Whether it's in the lyrics, covering topics from the political to the personal to the ecological to the romantical and everything in between, or in the music. "Names Have Been Changed (to Protect the Guilty)
" is a folksy acoustic ballad, "Where We Hide
" builds upon a slow 3/4 beat, "Gravity's Temptation
" features only a distorted guitar and vocalist Aaron pouring his heart out (and even singing in falsetto). Generally speaking, "Marathon
" is kept in the mid-tempo section of punk, but d-beats are tastefully interspliced where needed. And that's the first and foremost beauty of this album - every harmonized guitar riff, every back up vocal, every break and every backbeat is used simply for the good of the song, never to flash or impress. It's seemingly all done with the ambition of producing the best possible music.
I urge anyone who hasn't already, to check this album out
, no matter what your predisposition towards melodic punk is. I know I
will continuously return to this killer album - nodding along to each anthem and agreeing with each sardonic punchline.
"This planet's crying from this human tragedy
You have to admit, its getting scary
We have the knowledge to provide some therapy
But the profit margin's just too sexy
And yes, we're ***ed