[writer's note:The views reflected in this editorial and any other are mine and mine alone. They do not reflect the opinions of any other staff members or Jason Tate with regards to any band or label mentioned from here on out. Thank you for reading. Always form your own opinion, don't let someone do that for you.]
Poison the Well's Versions is the band's best record.
There, I said it.
After going through the catalog again upon hearing the news this week that Poison the Well has "something" coming to us soon (according to Twitter - May 3rd), it immediately sent me digging through what I deemed the prime cuts from the guys. Poison the Well, like most of my favorite bands - and those celebrated mostly through a minority or majority cult worship - have an uneven discography. Every record sounds different than the last. If you think about the bands that matter - the ones that have really made their mark, whether it be a decade or more since their beginning and end - those bands in question took a lot of chances, and in retrospect, they fucking paid off. But the key term here is "retrospect," because when you hear something unexpected from one of your favorite bands, there's always this limbo that you sit in. It could last three months or it could last three days. Maybe it'll be three years later when you pick back up the record and go, "Oh fuck! This is incredible!" The time you hangout in the limbo between not getting it and that realization of getting it is what makes your palette of musical tastes quite special in itself. It's subconscious growth, and it's a beautiful thing to look back on.
Like I've spoken about in other write-ups, there is a challenge set in getting to that understanding. That challenge has to come from simply giving new music and new ideas a chance. You won't like everything you hear, but you also may find elements that carry over into what you do like from the aforementioned music for which you at least gave a listen to. It will be subtle as well. For example, I'm not a huge Death Cab For Cutie fan like most of my fellow writers and friends, but the catalog is quite solid for the sake of argument. If you shuffle through the best of it, there are some power ballads evenly mixed with a bit of screamo-octave chords riding in the band's earlier work (as pointed out by one of my friends who is a big fan since the beginning). While it's not a catalog I celebrate per se, there are elements in the band that I see in my favorite bands. Elements that are subtle pointillism of the overall picture, but when called out by others, you realize the connection. Again, Death Cab For Cutie is a band that hasn't really written the same record twice. They attempted new things and they either gained fans, lost them or subjected some to the "challenge" that I speak about.
Like I've said numerous times before, that challenge is the best thing about punk rock. The risks that are taken and the way bands blend their favorite music into the boiling pot of influential gumbo is what keeps music exciting for most of us. While JADEDPUNKHULK may or may not agree with me, the "punkest" thing you can do is your own thing - even if it doesn't work for everyone. While I've made many a joke and scoff at a lot of the music that passes as "hardcore" or "post-hardcore" in some of your heads - there's a majority of young minds out there that truly believe that The Bunny the Bear is the most revolutionary thing to them. For some reason, for some it's their, err, At the Drive In. For some people, the expectation for Bring Me the Horizon to be influenced by post-rock will bring this new generation a hopeful Oceanic of sorts. Hell, The Illusion of Safety probably boast more of an Until Your Heart Stops for my teen years than Until Your Heart Stops does for me as an album now - in retrospect. It's hard as critics - especially as we grow older - to say, "Okay, I see what you're doing there." Because back in the day, an older generation found the likes of 3OneG to be just a garbage pail of noise and the next generation thought Thursday was ripping off the Level Plane catalog. It happens in cycles, we grow older, and new music doesn't stick as well as when the first chord struck us. About once a month I hear a new band and say to myself, "Man, if this came out in 2005, this would be my favorite new band." For whatever reason, I'm over it. For whatever other reason, subconsciously, I'm not over the music I fell in love with in 2005. The paradox will have to be solved on another day though.
So, to get at the point I came in here to make - the other day, with two of my good friends, we took a listen to the new Skip the Foreplay album, Nightlife. To put it best from one of those friends, "Man, Brokencyde opened up a door that shouldn't have been opened," or "This sounds like Crazy Town." Why not, the opening track has to introduce the band through a soundbyte. WHO DOES THAT? Nu-metal rap-rock bands between the years 1998-2000, that's who! So either we've come full circle, or this album is the biggest troll since Lil B's Everything Based or anything 3OH!3 has ever released. The titles: "Dinner With Snooki" "Hangover" and the lovely "Date Rape Predator" - a song title fitting in a scene of stories fed through the now deceased Is Anyone Up? website. (I'm not accusing anyone in Skip the Foreplay of such accusations though, that's for Tumblr and scene girl tweets to handle.) Seriously, a few minutes into "Date Rape Predator," and there's a sample of a girl acting like she's been slipped something in her drink! WHAT?! UGH! FUCK! (throws hands in air) I can ignore the breakdown after breakdown. I can ignore the sing-scream combo that has been played out for years. I can ignore the aerobic stage jumps and crouches tied into every oncoming breakdown that leaves your band with no utter sense of dynamics within the plateau of sound that is your music. I can even ignore this dubstep shit you've added to give "texture" for lack of a better word. Listening to this album was the blade that cut the umbilical chord of my youth and left me balding, yelling at kids to "Be safe!" and "Don't do anything stupid!" What bothers me is that someone, somewhere (and I'm not calling out just Epitaph on this one) said, "Yes, let's put this out," without giving the public at least a ten page dissertation on how a band like Skip the Foreplay, The Bunny the Bear or I See Stars is furthering anything in music besides a headache and a target for a candid joke when there's not a good nu-metal one at the moment.
I read a great article by Chuck Klosterman the other day. He attended both a Creed and Nickelback concert in one night. Now, I know that's making a lot of your heads spin, but it's worth a read. Klosterman not only makes some great points about the hate of some and the packed arenas for others, he also snagged some definitive quotes from attendees who willingly bought tickets of their own will. The most interesting point brought up in the whole piece is how much we as listeners live in our own reality when it comes to enjoying any band in question by the rest of the general public. We ignore the flack (haterz gonna hate, amirite?), and we only take in what a band or song or album or lyric means to us and no one else. That unwavering point when critics' and the popular media's opinions don't matter is pretty special. A lot of factors go into your tastes besides the consumption of the vast medium of music itself: your personal life, your financial demographic, your exposure to city life versus the rural bumfuck nowhere and your friends and home life. No matter how much you want to deny it, at a young age you probably listened to some god awful shit, and unbeknown to you, whether it was a negative turned into a positive, it helped shape who you are and what you listen to today.
So before Skip the Foreplay or any of the bands mentioned sends me a letterbomb (I'll just start a podcast or something, but seriously, I'd like to keep my hands) - maybe it's me not recognizing that maybe, just maaayybeee, these bands could be the next Antioch Arrow for a new generation. Then again, I seriously doubt any of you know who that band was, so enjoy the good times while they last. As soon as all these fans of the present Warped Tour and Hot Topic crowd grow-up and discover the inner-twines of some indie dream-pop band or discover some back catalog worship of some powerviolence or math-metal act - then you're just some band that they used to know and love and ended up in used CD trade-ins or deleted MP3 files. I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't already live through the motions. As prominent as the idea is now, not every band is entitled to a reunion - or deserves one for that matter. The biggest reason for that is not every band can make a mark worth lasting not only a decade long, but generations of young minds at that. When it gets to simplicity, you, as a band and an "artist," have to ask yourself this: Am I a gimmick to turn a buck or am I at least being honest with what I do and am actually contributing to the greater good of the challenge I may indirectly set for my fans? As long as there's some sort of honesty between those drops and on-stage calisthenics, I'll keep my mouth shut until the next trend.