Missing Hours

Written by: TL on 28/06/2014 19:34:53

For a while there I was thinking that each time I would review Conditions, I would have to start out by talking about how they were criminally underappreciated, poised for a bigger breakthrough and how anyone reading about them for the first time are complete fools for having slept on especially their 2010 debut "Fluorescent Youth", which is one of the most catchy and encouraging melodic modern rock records released in years. Sadly though, with only their third full album "Missing Hours" marking a final farewell after the band's recent break-up announcement, the last review I'll write about them for the foreseeable future will have to start with a very simple statement: What a damn shame.

For all their merits, Conditions never got quite the traction their material deserved, perhaps because they were a rare gimmick-free band, whom it's hard to sell via hyperbole because frankly all they do is write catchy, engaging melodies and lyrics all day long, based around a conventional dual-guitar approach, a dynamic balance between punching and soaring, and an attitude to songwriting that get's the message across and doesn't overstay its welcome. It sounds simple and almost blue-collar, but considering the surprisingly high level of the result maintained across "Fluorescent Youth" and "Full Of War", the demise of the Virginia based quintet is unquestionably somewhat of a tragedy.

Their final salute then, is a mixed goodie bag that opens with three new songs in "No Mistakes", "Make Your Art" and "Missing Hours". They stay true to the band's style, sounding like they could've fit on either of the previous albums, at least if it wasn't for the more regretful tone of lyrics on for instance "Make Your Art", which sifts retrospectively through the band's motivations throughout their eight year career, or the doubt-ridden "No Mistakes" which gives insight into the band's doubts as to whether the time invested in the rock and roll lifestyle has been worth it. Much like the material on the prior album "Full Of War", each song is expertly written in its own right, proving engaging already on first listen, yet perhaps not as sweeping as the songs empowered with the all-out conviction the band emitted on "Fluorescent Youth".

Next we get a triplet of cover songs: Goo Goo Dolls' "Long Way Down" is perhaps the standout track of the album, with the original's catchy signature chords going to work with increased and irresistable effect here. Conditions stay relatively loyal to the originals, which you can hear even more on "Runaways" (originally by The Killers) and "With Or Without You" (by U2), to the point where it's fair to question if they do enough to make their renditions stand apart from their influences. Yet you can hear - especially in "Runaways" - that the band has taken such care in their recordings of these, that they're super compelling listens regardless, which send you searching for the originals to brush up and compare.

The latter half of the record is filled mainly with primarily acoustic reimaginings of songs from the band's two former albums. Here it speaks to the pure songwriting panache at work when especially "When It Won't Save You" and "Better Life" prove every bit as captivating in their raw, powered-down versions as they did on "Fluorescent Youth", in a rare occasion of it being hard to choose which version is really more worthwhile. The raspyness at the edge of singer Brandon Roundtree's otherwise clear and perfectly balanced performance particularly does wonders here.

The final cut - and the only dud of the lot - is a "Mass FX Remix" of "Better Life", which honestly feels a bit unimaginative and lacklustre as a closer, even for the doze of contrast it clearly strikes to the otherwise guitar-driven approach on the rest of the release. Apart from that, "Missing Hours" is plainly entirely worthwhile, yet with that being said, if you substract the sadness pre-existing fans will carry into listening to it, it is also pretty clearly a collection mainly for them, which doesn't have the feeling of cohesion or ambition to mark a truly striking and well-rounded album (Really how could it?). If you're just hearing me sing Conditions praises right now then, this is a decent album to catch up to the with, but you'll be more sold if you head back and get at them in chronological order. Then perhaps later you can return and mourn with me at this epitaph, which although solid, isn't quite the fireworks display one could have at least dreamt of to mark the untimely departure of such a promising young group.

Download: Long Way Down, Make Your Art, When It Won't Save You (Acoustic)
For The Fans Of: Anberlin, Young Guns, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

Release date 03.06.2014
Good Fight Music

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