CD Reviews 10 Jul 2006

Things Fall Apart CD Scan0001THINGS FALL APART – We Are All…

(2006   Crustacean Records)

Written by John Payne

The first time through, listening to Things Fall Apart’s EP We Are All…is a bit like getting really drunk and then seeing a great band you’ve never heard of before.  When it’s over, you have a hard time remembering anything specific about the songs.  You just remember that they rocked and kicked ass.

In that sense, We Are All…is an impressionistic album, one that must be consumed and appreciated as a whole.  It’s a 14-minute-45-second blur, unified by consistent guitar and vocal tones that don’t really change much from song to song.  To say it’s a blur isn’t to say that it’s sloppy; both solid production and great musicianship are two obvious characteristics of the disc.  But frequent sharp turns from melody to dissonance, unpredictable drumming, and a near-absence of hooks render the album disorienting.  There are no choruses and there is very little repetition, lyrical or otherwise.  Even musical phrases that are repeated are difficult to detect and may still not qualify as “hooks”; they certainly don’t qualify as pop hooks.  As a result, these aren’t songs that get stuck in your head after the fact.  But during the fact these songs crush your head in.  The aggressive vocals are layered nicely and make a big contribution to the band’s unpredictable feel.  This is great hardcore, reminiscent at times of bands like Fugazi and At the Drive In, while also carving out their own, even heavier niche.

Particularly impressive is Things Fall Apart’s lyrical content.  It expresses a very grim view of war and capitalist society, but does so in a very sophisticated and poetic manner.  John Steinbeck is even quoted in the first song, “The Least We Can Do,” and the band aspires to have intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics such as “Don’t dare dismiss the reality / Of what we’re not seeing / Would they consider it a measure of our humanity / That we’d lose sleep (or a measure of the least).”  Anti-war song lyrics certainly aren’t rare, but they’re rarely so stylish; it’s not just “Fuck Bush.” On “Inveterate,” the band even expresses doubt about the value of that kind of anti-war statement: “Being right doesn’t matter anyway / It never did / We could say ‘shame on them’ again / But nothing’s changed and I’m afraid.” Lyrics this heavy and well written are found on each of the four tracks.

While less important than the music itself, it should be noted that this album is very beautifully packaged, with a sleeve featuring excepts from writers such as Noam Chomsky, a wrapping complete with a music staff on which “Taps” is written, and a striking wax imprint sealing it.

We Are All…is another fine release from Crustacean Records, whose lineup continues to produce unique hard-rock sounds. Though this album is difficult to internalize, it pays off when despite the disc’s brevity, you are able to discover something new every listen, even after hearing it dozens of times.

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