Somos - Temple of Plenty
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Record Label: Tiny Engines
There is an intrinsic quality within punk rock that has nothing to do with distorted guitars, the forbidden beat, cheap beer or desperate lyrics. It’s this intangible quality, something that can’t be described but can easily be identified, that allows us to categorize an artist like Frank Turner into the realm of “punk rock” as quickly as we pigeonhole him a “singer/songwriter.”
This is why I know that Somos’ debut LP, Temple of Plenty, is a punk album even though the band, ahem, sort of skirts around the edges of the ideal demographic. The quartet doesn’t sound like everyone’s favorite punk band right now, The Menzingers; they aren’t as poetically disheveled as the emo revival’s most widely acclaimed act, The Hotelier; they can’t cash in on Tumblr’s unfaltering affinity for the bottomless well that produces pop-punk groups like Real Friends or The Story So Far. But Temple of Plenty incorporates a little of everything, and it does so in a special enough way to make it worthy of note.
The opening “Familiar Theme” is a fair representation of Temple of Plenty’s nine songs. The guitar work from Phil Haggerty and Justin Hahn is sometimes noodly up front and palm-muted in the background, but at other times it’s relentlessly pounding, meant to drive your head into the ground. The drums are never not a focal point, which is more a result of the production than what Mike Benoit^ is playing. That’s not to knock his work behind the kit, which is crucial to the album; the mixing here is just damn good and should be noted.
Michael Fiorentino’s vocals are high and mighty, as hooks and one-liners are abundant. He carries some songs like “When You Pass,” a mid-album highlight, and “Lifeline,” where he inquires, “Could you watch your friends turn into your enemies?” But Somos is enjoyable because everything is in congruence, serving to assemble a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
“Dead Wrong” served as a terrific leadoff single (I would tell you to go listen to it, but you should really listen to it, so it’s embedded above), and it’s even better with context clues. The distorted drums and guitars provide a contrasting backbone to Fiorentino’s soaring chorus, and while his vocal style isn’t exactly predictive of the morbid blue-collar theme (“Seconds stretching out, a pattern crystallized / Same 9 to 5, 16 to 65”), it still works well. And I hate to just copy/paste lyrics, but give me a break: “The rope around your neck, we'll call halo when you're gone / In front of the screen so long that your eyes fell out / Anything for your daily bread / Shirt tucked in, shaking hands.” If you work in a cubicle, this is your new angry-at-everything song for the crowded train ride or traffic-jammed highway drive that leads you back home.
“Lives of Others” and “When You Pass” round out an impressive and memorable first half of Temple of Plenty, but where the album is overflowing in charm and enthusiasm, it’s lacking in variety. While there are good songs on the back half of the record (“Lifeline” and Distorted Vision” chief among them), Temple of Plenty actually feels long with its 28-minute run time. Songs just bleed together, despite numerous powerful melodies - if anything, the catchy moments are so regular that they're actually tripping over each others' feet.
I’ve found Temple of Plenty to be enormously entertaining and instantly addictive in the short run - it’s a strong dose of punk rock powerpop directly into the veins, straightforward and without hesitation - but I don’t have too much faith for this album’s lasting value in terms of entire years. That’s an okay thing, because this Boston band is just getting its wits about it, and Temple of Plenty is more than acceptable as a starting point; it turns Somos into an instant contender moving forward.
"Temple of Plenty actually feels long with its 28-minute run time. Songs just bleed together, despite numerous powerful melodies - if anything, the catchy moments are so regular that they're actually tripping over each others' feet."
Quite possibly my favorite album of the year so far. I enjoy this more than the Hotelier album, but that's just due to personal preference. Every song has at least one section that's extremely cool or ridiculously catchy. Very well written songs.