- San Francisco, California - When a popular, innovative band polarizes their audience by totally abandoning what has earned their following and trying something new, I commend them for their bravery (see my Showbread review). At the same time, I also wonder: who will pick up where they left off?
In 2009, the indie-rock band mewithoutYou reinvented themselves, replacing their emo-tinged, lo-fi, guitar-line-laced and accelerated diatribes with bright, chord-based, melody-focused and reflective soliloquies. For two years, I wondered which band might take up mewithoutYou's legacy int the post-hardcore world. Somehow I missed So Long Forgotten's 2009 release Things We Can See & Things We Cannot until recently, when I stumbled upon it while listening to a random shuffle. I have since become fascinated with the album in both its similarities to the distinctive mewithoutYou tradition and the promise that they show in taking the post-hardcore genre where mewithoutYou could not.
For those readers unfamiliar with mewithoutYou, let me briefly summarize what I believe to be their greatest accomplishments in the post-hardcore world. First and foremost, mewithoutYou introduced a hybridized form of singing, screaming, and rapping (yes, you read that right) that allowed for a wide range of expression. Many mewithoutYou songs are carried by the varying techniques that lead singer Aaron Weiss employs to express the brooding, betrayed, remorseful, and frustrated feelings behind his highly symbolic and lyrics.
mewithoutYou also uniquely combined aggressive drums and line-based guitar arrangements. Many times these one of these elements appears to the exclusion of the other. In the metal tradition, chord-based arrangements tend to reinforce the drive of the drums; in the folk and indie paradigms, song arrangements based on guitar lines or “riffs” tend to minimize the drums to focus on the intricacies of the guitar. In mewithoutYou's music, the intricate guitar work serves as a canvas upon which the drums and vocals establish the mood and drive.
Finally, mewithoutYou set themselves apart from many metal and hardcore bands in the variance of their emotional tone. The angst ebbs and flows in their albums, allowing the listener to catch a breath between moments of extreme emotion. While this is not unique to mewithoutYou, it is an aspect of their style that is essential to their music's effectiveness. The great amount of variation elevates the album from sounding like a screaming match to expressing a complex web of powerful and conflicting emotions, from angst to naiveté and from devastation to hopeful yearning.
On the surface, Things We Can See & Things We Cannot echoes these aspects of mewithoutYou's style, nearly to a fault. Lead singer Micah Boyce replicates Aaron Weiss' yell/scream style. Dustin Hoke and Todd Reese create the same interweaving guitar melodies that identify mewithoutYou. The songs show similar musical and emotional variation. On a second listen, however, one might notice some aspects of So Long Forgotten that show potential for blazing ahead in the post-hardcore world.
The primary promising aspect of So Long Forgotten that is the lead vocalist's great singing voice. While Aaron Weiss does sing in mewithoutYou's music, his voice lacks the smoothness of Micah Boyce's. While Weiss has used the unique roughness of his voice to his advantage, it does limit his range of expression. While Boyce spoken and shouted styles do not have as much nuance as Weiss mumbled, moaned, and shouted reflections, he approaches it in songs like “An Empire Razed (A Kingdom Raised).” So Long Forgotten's integration of conventional hardcore chord-based arrangements into their music as well as melody-based segments is generally executed so that the songs sound thicker without sacrificing the dynamic range of the music. So Long Forgotten's existing and potential stylistic variety allow the band a great domain of expression that may soon exceed that of mewithoutYou.
While at first listen So Long Forgotten sounds somewhat derivative of groups like mewithoutYou, the band's inventiveness and creative potential become clear on a second or third listen. I believe So Long Forgotten is at a turning point with this album; from it, they have the potential to fully come into their own, with a unique identity that appeals to post-hardcore fans that seek a nuanced, comprehensive view of the mental and emotional perils in life, a niche that mewithoutYou no longer fills. In addition to simply being an excellent band, I hear several qualities in So Long Forgotten's music that make me anticipate great musical innovation in their future releases.
If you'd like to download So Long Forgotten's Things We Can See & Things We Cannot for yourself, follow the link here.
Rating: 4/5 Sour Grapes