Long Live Happy Birthday will be the latest release from Connecticut “emo” band The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die on March 25th. This two track EP comes soon after the release of their very good sophomore album Harmlessness, and it’s clear to see that these two tracks here could’ve easily fit in somewhere on that record.
In fact, these were written at the same time as the album, so it might be better to treat these as bonus tracks rather than a completely different project from the band, albeit a good way to get a release of a new 7” EP out there.
That’s not to say these tracks aren’t different though, perhaps more grand than what was on their last album. On Harmlessness, the band slightly drifted from the post-rock leanings of their debut and went with a more emo indie rock driven album, similar to the 90s emo bands like American Football, Sunny Day Real Estate and a more recent band like Death Cab for Cutie, also.
The vocals were more upfront and vibrant, even if at times a little corny, but that does tend to come with the emo package. And I’d say we definitely get more of these Death Cab for Cutie-isms on this EP here as well, perhaps a post-hardcore version of Death Cab. Katamari Duquette being the better of the two, and surprising much heavier than what the band has previously released, which only works in their favour as the track builds into an epic crescendo and only leaves me wishing the track was longer to see where how far they could have taken this.
The track bursts into its most passionate moments when the refrain comes throttling in: “Away with god, away with love / Our hands are tied and stepped on.” Even More Forever moves at a slower pace and feels like it’s taking a little long to get somewhere, but the lyrics do keep you interested, like much of this band’s music, they still manage to keep an atmosphere sticking with you throughout. The lyrical poignancy of their last album really flourishes on this EP, and it’s interesting to see where there’ll take this approach in the future.
Pop punk has always been quite an ‘Americanized’ genre (the ‘z’ not intended there). So despite all UK bands efforts, they’ll always get compared the obvious US bands that got popular in the 2000s. To be fair, when a sound has already been established in a genre, it’s difficult to stray away from the original sounds, which explains why Neck Deep sound the way they do. But right from the start you don’t get an instant Neck Deep comparison, more of an A Day To Remember or Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! sound, but, hey, at least that’s a French band comparison.
The opener Chump doesn’t really set the tone for the EP though, the more post-hardcore influence doesn’t appear on EP throughout, which I do say is a good thing because the pop punk anthems are much more enjoyable. There’s some kind of local spirit that comes through on these tracks, like on the track Smooth Sailing Is A Fool’s Thought, which to me is a good replacement for the general whiny-ish vocals you can tend to get in pop punk.
One thing I wanted throughout the EP was a switch up in sound and more melody introduced in the tracks, which is what I thought was happening with the track Bedrock, the intro has a nice 90s indie rock sound which had potential for a great song but it switches into the sound that the band is good at. But the song itself is good, similar to Growing Pains by Neck Deep (oh no, I made the obvious Neck Deep comparison), which I’d still say is ND’s best song. It’s slightly smoother sounding than the rest of the EP, well, especially in contrast to the closing track which to me just sounded messy.
I sort of hope they don’t continue with that style in the future, because Rainy Days gives them potential to make some great pop punk music in the future. This is also shown in the quite cleverly titled Regret Me Not, which has a riff that could only make you want to instantly jump up and down at a gig. So this EP demonstrates potential for the band, potential to not sound like their peers and make more use of the vocals and different instrumental styles within their music. Then I’d say this band could easily make some even better music in the future.
I suppose saying you’re influenced by classic rock in 2015 isn’t exciting for a lot of people, the genre can’t do much new at this point, everything tends to sound influenced by everything in the past in an obvious way. There’s still a massive audience for it though; I know your uncle spins all the AC/DC records all the time, although it could be the same one over and over again because that’s all their albums anyway but you would never know the difference, but I digress – rock music today is struggling to show new ideas.
That’s not to say rock is dead though, and not even in the mainstream either, the success of Royal Blood prove that (and they show their influences quite obviously), but the huge audience really doesn’t mean there’s originality there, instead it probably just means Radio 1 like playing it. With rock music though, smaller audiences certainly doesn’t mean the band is as innovating as the fans want to think they are. This brings us to The Heavy Jets, and as you can guess they’re not very original either – is that a bad thing? No, they make pretty great rock songs without it feeling like a complete rock throwback either.
Well recorded, fast rock songs with an emphasis on big choruses is what you’re getting here on this four track EP. Drop being the best example of this, easily the catchiest hook on the EP. The second track being a bit more of a harder hitting track, and it has to be mentioned that when this vocalist uses more gruff vocals, he sounds quite fantastic, also reminding me a bit of Dope Body. The third track goes for a melodic guitar lead, which works well since the two tracks before aren’t quite as melodically driven, the bass is slightly more prominent in those songs which does make them more exciting and a little throttling, sort of like Thee Oh Sees or Band Of Skulls, especially the first track for the latter band mentioned.
The Heavy Jets do manage to show a little bit of variety on Common Mantra but also keeping a familiar sound throughout, and luckily this isn’t your average run of the mill rock record that seem to have existed since the dawn of time. So take your uncle down to see these guys at a gig, they’re not Thin Lizzy, but he’ll love them.
The heavy breathing on opening track Aim, and the “white flag, white flag I surrender” refrain on piano driven track Fire, are both signs that the singer of this duo is very much on the verge of giving up. But the motivation to put these feelings into song format are still there, and thankfully so. The strength of the guitar and piano alone on these tracks are enough to tug at the emotions, but with the power of the vocals, the emotions are certainly amplified. The vocals on these tracks are very direct and they’re sung in key at every moment. This is by no means a negative, but to give these songs feel slightly more real, it may have been helpful if these vocals had more of a raw feeling to them, let the emotions bleed through like Sharon Van Etten does in her music, or an even better example would be the fantastic Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone by Lykki Li. This doesn’t take away from the songs, they are still very good on their own.
There is a lo-fi aesthetic to these tracks, even though the vocals are the stand out but at times they feel mixed in a way that muffles the singer’s voice, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t add to the songs in the best kind of way. Two Beats Apart do show their liking for bands like Bon Iver but they don’t have the melody in their songs to be as captivating, not that the melodies aren’t there but they could be stronger, the songs tend to stay stagnant and don’t progress throughout, and that could potentially add more flavour.
These three tracks do show promise, there is a lot of talent here and Fire shows that they can add a good hook to their music and still keep the feelings of the song intact, perhaps more tracks like this can give them more attention in the near future.
Generally speaking with many forms of metal, the clean vocal/scream vocal sounds formulaic and predictable. Adding a clean vocal in the mix (particularly the chorus) feels too safe, like the band wants there to be some pop appeal to crossover to a wider audience. To add to the corniness there’s occasionally the whiny clean vocals with, “I wear my heart on my sleeve feel sorry for me” lyrics. This isn’t always the case though, Refused did this excellently back in their prime, and some modern bands do it justice as well, bands like letlive., Dillinger Escape Plan, and more of course. And I’m also happy to report that Koshiro does this pretty well.
It’s not exactly the most original sound but that doesn’t take away from this solid EP either. There’s the blast beats, the aforementioned verse-screamed, chorus-sung song structures; there’s even the “we’re metal so let’s cover a pop song” song, which I’ve never really fully understood why bands do, but it’s best if I don’t dwell on the Chandelier cover because not only is it pretty terrible, but it’s only a bonus track so it’s not that important.
In fact, the major thing that makes this band less original is the vocals resembling Mike Patton, but this isn’t bad, the similarity is a very good thing. It adds personality to this vocalist in a way that most bands in this style tend not to have. These tracks are heavy for sure, but they’re fairly melodic too, but they’re not melodic in the way that these hooks will stick in your head, but this band isn’t about that. They have ability, but this ability doesn’t translate to technically crafted songs. These songs are anthems, fairly well written anthems as well, no glaringly obvious corny lyricism.
The screamed vocals are quite hardcore influenced, which can give verses a punk feel to them which is what I think makes the songs sound more like anthems than the average metalcore song. Perhaps more experimentation would give these guys a unique edge, go in the mathcore direction and they would excel. Less emphasis on the soaring choruses (which are done well, however), the breakdowns and more focus on new ideas and how they can switch up their sound more. But a solid EP nevertheless.