The Front Bottoms - Talon Of The Hawk
Record Label: Bar/ None Records
Release Date: May 21, 2013
"This is not the way I plan on living for the rest of my life
But for right now, it gets me by, it gets me by."
I’m feeling kind of nervous about reviewing the new album from The Front Bottoms. It’s hard for me to put down in words my feelings about Talon Of The Hawk without seeming a little forced or unnatural. I find it difficult to describe this record without sounding like a 12 year old who has just discovered ‘alternative music’ or a teenager discovering beer. Everything about the album doesn’t just speak to me, it screams at me. Right now, I’m writing this with Talon Of The Hawk blasting out of the corner of my room and I feel so incredibly contented and happy and sad and lonely and comforted and everything all at once. I mean this in the most earnest sense possible. The reason I’m so nervous about reviewing this record is because as far as I can remember, no band’s lyrics have ever connected with me like The Front Bottoms’ and I want every single person who reads this review and listens to the record to feel the way I do when I hear The Front Bottoms.
So, basically, I’m probably, maybe, a little bit biased, but, hell, Talon Of The Hawk is by far one of the best albums you’ll hear this year. It’s been two years since the release of the New Jersey band’s self-titled third album set fans’ hearts on fire with its witticisms and accessible realism and the band have come a long way since. If the self-titled record was an album written by and for teenagers, Talon Of The Hawk is the band reluctantly being dragged, kicking and screaming into adulthood. Leaving behind some of the earnestness and wide-eyed observations, the fourth record deploys the exact same wit as before, but now with that extra layer of seriousness. Obviously, some of the silly lyrics still play their role; ‘Au Revoir (Adios)’’s repetition of ‘au revoir’ and ‘adios’ doesn’t exactly seem insightful, but in the context of the entire track, with its references to miscommunication in relationships, it works perfectly. I think that’s where The Front Bottoms’ main strength lies. They say silly, childish things that would sound ridiculous coming from most bands, however their ability to tie it in with clever references to everyday life makes it feel like you’re listening to all of your own problems coming out of your stereo speaker in the most irresistible, deliberate American accent in our scene.
Throughout the album, certain tracks overshadow anything else in the band’s back catalogue. “Twin Size Mattress” is sublime. The downbeat verses are excellently deployed with Brian Sella’s vocal performance and ramblings driving the track, speaking directly to the listener. The lyrics perfectly capture about 99.9% of emotions every experienced, whilst making the listener just really want to give Sella a hug (in particular when “With tears in my eyes, I begged you to stay/ You said, “Hey man, I love you but no fucking way” is deployed). “Peach” is also a highlight of the album. A sort of love song, the upbeat chorus (“you are the reason I’m smiling/ when there’s nothing to smile about”) is slightly heart-melting. Every lyric is quotable (“Santa Monica”’s “I wanna be stronger than your dad was for your mom” and “Lone Star”’s “Goodbye future, once so bright, meet my pregnant girlfriend”, being two of my favourites) and will stay in your head whether you want it to or not.
Whilst somewhat more polished than their previous efforts, the instrumentation on the record is typical of The Front Bottoms. According to Wikipedia (everyone’s favourite music source), “The Front Bottoms are an American acoustic-dance-indie-punk band”, and that’s a pretty accurate description. Everything is verging on shambolic, but there’s just enough control to maintain a sense of precision from the musicians. In particular, the drumming is extremely tight and Uychich never misses a beat in driving the record forward. The only misstep The Front Bottoms take on here is the occasional over reliance on repetition. “Skeleton”, probably the least memorable track, repeats its chorus about a million and one times, which is disappointing given the lyrical talent the band possesses and could utilize more often.
Overall, Talon Of The Hawk is a bloody wonderful album. To quote Black Books' Bernard Black “This [album] is very, very good. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, it’ll change your life..” Stop reading this and just go and listen to it. I want every reader of this to listen to the record three times over and then tell me you haven’t fallen in love with it. Absolutely, incredibly, amazingly awesome album.
I didn't really love "Skeleton" at first...until they opened the set with it the other day and now I'm in love with it.
This album is fantastic. Pretty much agree wholeheartedly with everything you said. I can think of no other band that I've heard that can think of such wittily odd lyrics yet make them work so well and be so memorable.
And yeah, "Twin Sized Mattress" is hands down their masterpiece.
I think the album is a little bit of a letdown compared to the S/T which is probably unfair given how great the S/T was. Still a lot of great songs on this one. There are some missteps (the chorus on Santa Monica has got to be one of the "worst things done by a great band". Its just too over the top, even for the Front Bottoms.) that prevent it from a really great album but its still a very solid album everyone should should check out.
I love this, but it's not as good as the self-titled. I also kind of burned myself out on it by listening to it a ton in the first week or two and then seeing this band two nights in a row. Worth it though.