||10/14/11 12:29 AM
Pianos Become the Teeth - The Lack Long After
Pianos Become The Teeth - The Lack Long After
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Record Label: Topshelf Records
I usually like to spend more than a week with a record before I review it. I like to give it time to settle in and see what sort of return it can have in time. I want to absorb everything it has to offer with as many listens as possible. But sometimes a record just hits on the first couple of plays. As a critic (or just a general elitist prick as we are often seen as), we can tend to over-analyze more than we should. I find some of the best records are the ones that connect at the moment you make it through upon first listen. Over a week ago at 10 a.m., sitting on the floor and staring at a lyric booklet on my computer screen, I could feel every nerve in my body grab hold and wrench the nerve next to it.
I often find the general public of listeners adhering to television soundtracks and the radio alike usually listen to music for two reasons: initial aesthetic pleasure or connecting to what I usually deem "the worst lyrical disaster because you caught your significant other cheating" or whatever it may be. There is a certain group of people which I consider a majority that will never digest some of the most beautifully heartbreaking music there is. A band that has no lyrics, what's that? Why is he screaming? About what? Where is the hook or chorus? For those people, The Lack Long After will not be digestible. It is an album of utter anguish by definition. As another friend put it, it's a record that's hard to pick back up once you've made it through once. On Old Pride, Pianos Become The Teeth's last album, vocalist Kyle Durfey opened up about dealing with his father's illness and death on "Cripples Can't Shiver" - a cornerstone to an already great record and miles away from the band's faltering Saltwater disc. When Durfey lets his feelings out after the spoken sample from his mother at the end of the track, it's a leveling moment of loss felt through the speakers. For Durfey to write an entire record as a follow-up around the feelings and mental disaster of losing someone that close is commendable in its own right. Reading along to every word on the record can be at times unbearable if you've ever been in the same position - and we all either have or will be at one time or another.
The music and production make the perfect accompaniment to the vocals and poetry on The Lack Long After. After many repeat listens, I still lose all feeling down the back of my spine when Durfey screams "And I think that I felt more inside you than I would have liked," in the distance against bright, soft tones climbing until the guitars come hammering down in a counterpoint of frustration on "Shared Bodies," but it's "Liquid Courage" that is the most painful to swallow. The opening pounding of the snare and floor tom immediately grabs your attention from ear to ear. As the guitars quietly make their way in, Durfey sounds the most distant on the mix during this part of the record. It's the most unnerving moment as you sense that these lyrics may have been the hardest to share - like they were meant to be heard as the dark thoughts they are, instead of a lyrical movement and layer they're presented as. While the music then begins to beautifully build and climax, everything collapses right into "spine," the angriest track on the record. It's a song that encapsulates the moment when you know you can't do a thing, and the person you love will be lost. It is the moment when we breakdown. It's the tears at a funeral and beforehand at the bedside or after the worst call you can receive at an hour you're unprepared to handle.
After the harmonic guitar slides to close out "Sunsetting," we see a side of Pianos Become the Teeth that I don't believe anyone could have expected. The bright twinkle of the closing "I'll Get By" is only enhanced by Durfey's cleanest vocals to date. When he sings "I just wish I would have had ears for more than what you said because I still feel the lack long after," that's when your heart shatters as the line is a jagged rock thrown through the window in your chest. There are few times when you see or hear something in any sort of media that takes you back for a minute, especially since we're mostly desensitized by the constant push of boundaries and the ever-changing cultural intake and social acceptance. Having a hard time digesting the first few listens of The Lack Long After is necessary to connect back to something heartfelt and real.
Punk music wasn't built around beauty. Hardcore was never about lush pop tunes you could drown yourself in. At some point though, someone decided that listening to Dag Nasty and The Smiths was okay. A lot of people like to think they know what screamo is, and I'm not going to be the person to define it by any means. What I do understand from listening to records from bands such as Raein and Funeral Diner is that a couple of kids figured out a way to write emotionally charged music both instrumentally and vocally. While most of the genre is riddled with songs about love and loss romantically - I've rarely come across an album in the genre that cuts through a nerve of love we're all attached to until the day we see our loved ones tied up to wires in a hospital bed, or worse - taken without a final word. The Lack Long After captures that moment, that headspace and that heartache perfectly. When you get the chance to hear this album, don't just throw it on and begin crawling around the Internet or cleaning your house. Take forty minutes, put on some headphones and follow along with every deep cut of Durfey's tongue. You'll probably sit there for a good ten minutes afterward trying to take it all in. That moment is a rare experience where music transcends a flat feeling of enjoyment into an overwhelming feeling of deep connection. That's when you know an album holds some sort of grander power.