Sainthood Reps

Headswell

Written by: TL on 19/01/2014 12:52:38

Over the course of 2013 it seemed like the punk-rock scene became properly familiar with bands that sounded somewhat like Brand New yet also drew on 90's themes for influence, like the grunge of Nirvana or the emo of Sunny Day Real Estate. Bands like Daylight, Basement, Balance And Composure and Citizen all somewhat fit in this loosely defined category, and each seemed to earn considerable approval last year. The way I see it though, each of them arrived with a one or two year delay after Sainthood Reps' furiously noisy "Monoculture" had already blazed the same trail open, which sort of made me wonder if I wasn't paying attention, or if there really was surprisingly little buzz around their follow-up "Headswell".

Though including now former Brand New touring guitarist Derrick Sherman, it isn't given of course, that Sainthood Reps should sound like Brand New, it just so happens that they do - very much so in fact, at least when they're dwelling in their mellower gear. And while "Headswell" opens with crunchy chords and shouted punk rock verses in "Shelter", it soon becomes clear that it is indeed their more down-beat side that's going to be explored on this album. When compared to "Monoculture", it's like the band's frustrations have turned more inwards, making for less shouty anger and more despondent bitterness.

This is fine in my book, as it was Sainthood Reps' brooding, dark melodies that attracted me in the first place, i.e. more their similarity to Brand New than their differences. And this works out the best on here in "Desert Song" and the title track. At track two "Desert Song" works both the guitar and vocal dynamics well, with attention grabbing verses sung upon muted, threatening strums before things open up beneath the words "I was raised to start a war /I never hurt a soul before" and ultimately end with the curiously obscene "I want to swallow her seed /I want her to grow inside of me". Meanwhile, towards the albums' opposite end, "Headswell" ups the tempo at track seven, sounding like a compelling alternative to either Crime In Stereo's "Drugwolf" or Brand New's "Archers".

Apart from these, "The Last Place I Left You" also deserves a mention, channeling more "Devil And God"-era Brand New atmosphere at track three, and generally the stretch between "Desert Song" and "Headswell" is where the album is best, even if the songs aren't always as successfully resolved as these two. In fact, the main drawback for "Headswell" as an album is that the songs can feel a bit underdeveloped compared to their likely inspirations, perhaps stemming from the fact that Sainthood Reps have opted to do without a proper bridge section on several occasions. Not that it's something you absolutely must have in every song, it just could be a likely reason if you listen and feel like the songs don't really travel as far as you would have liked them.

At track nine, "Rapture Addict" throws a curve ball in form of a guitar tone that feels oddly happy and calm as opposed to the eight tracks of unconditional bleakness that's gone before, and along with the primarily acoustic "Breath Worth Breathing", I think it forms an odd end to the album, unfortunately boosting the feeling that "Headswell" isn't the most focused or fully realised of efforts overall. At its best moments, its melodies and lyrical hooks are perhaps even more promising than "Monoculture" - which I admittedly never got as much into as I had hoped - but as a whole it's too inconsistent, and perhaps also a little too similar to its contemporaries, to stand up as one of the top tier records from last year.

7

Download: Headswell, Desert Song, The Last Place I Saw You
For The Fans Of: Brand New, Crime In Stereo, Balance And Composure
Listen: facebook.com/sainthoodreps

Release Date 22.10.2013
No Sleep Records

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