Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 13/3
Written by: HES on 02/11/2016 14:56:56
The EP "Driftwood" started the young Blackpool, United Kingdom based outfit Boston Manor’s trajectory, but the direction of their path has altered over time. Whereas "Driftwood" set the tone of pop-punk with the preamble underlined in the vein of the Welsh sensation Neck Deep, the sophomore EP “Saudade” changed the mood from bike-riding on sunny boardwalks to rainy gloom — ‘saudade’ itself is a word signifying a ”melancholic longing for something or someone”. However, our magazine found it longing for more strategic composition and original hooks. It’s a general symptom of bands that try to combine the energy of pop-punk with more ‘emo’ moods (if you dare call it so), proving it very hard to master both energy and catchiness. So here we are: the Fall of 2016, and a release I personally have been both excited and worried about: Boston Manor’s debut album, “Be Nothing.”
First off, “Be Nothing.” is not an album that will open itself like a delicate flower for you. Both rhythmically and in terms of expression, it’s dense from start to end. Whereas other emo-labeled bands like Moose Blood will write an album like “Blush”, where a few songs instantly catch your attention and somewhat soften the landing, "Be Nothing." is nothing like that. From the onset of the opener, “Burn You Up”, it’s clear that the energy of this release is leaning more up against the punk rather than the pop. Atop a hectic soundscape, vocalist Henry Cox bellows ”Swallow your words and maybe some teeth as well”, with a chorus equal parts catchy and raw energy. The mood is angry rather than melancholic, with raging drums provided by Jordan Pugh, and as if with a slight nod to Blink 182’s self-titled 2003 release, the band incorporates fast pace and light guitar motifs — but quickly dives into emotional depths, where Mark Hoppus and co. would be dipping their feet in the shallows. Boston Manor is filled to the brims with anxiety and anger beyond your average adolescent rant.
The frantic, angry feel of many of the songs is what makes the album a little difficult to get into. Albeit that anger is a great emotional lightning rod, Henry Cox’s vitriol is introvert and explosive — not fully spelled out or unapologetic. For a band that maybe before seemed preoccupied with sounding digestible, there is a distinct lack of cuddling on "Be Nothing.” However, the band makes up for this with open-ended imagery à la ”You’re the apple on top of my head, so just keep still, I’m not holding my breath” and ”Everything you ever wanted was just out of reach. When you're swimming up the river with lead feet”. The more superior track lyrically though, is the first single, the balladic "Laika”, named after the first living creature in space (the stray dog Laika) which has gone down in history, but, rarely mentioned, also died in orbit. The lyrics circuit the theme gently with clever lines like ”I’m so sorry that I’m leaving… you so little to believe in” and a more direct outro in ”As lonely as Laika. Up there all alone. You miss the atmosphere. The stars are now your home.”
Another feat of the album is a combination of slower verses or a more quiet bridge before a hectic verse, apparent on the verses of "Fossa" and the bridge in the aforementioned "Burn You Up". Although I’m not a big fan of the retracted mixing of backup vocals on the album, it does provide calming unison moments to an album that doesn’t provide much calm. The on-point instrumentation throughout the album ensures stability amidst the otherwise chaotic feel. The record as a whole though, would probably have been an easier sell if more contradictory elements were left out, hence lifting the album into a more manageable listening experience, but when I look back over the tracks, it’s hard to put a finger on any song I didn’t enjoy the chaotic feel of.
Actually, all songs sparkle in their own right with always a minimum of one take away part: the guitar work on "Cu", the nihilism of "Stop Trying, Be Nothing", the lethargic, swing-like bridge of "Broken Glass", the lyrical tale of what appears to be Alzheimer's on "Forget Me Not", the guitar solo in "Kill Your Conscience" and the adolescent anger of "This Song is Dedicated to Nobody" (which however struggles with opening lines not unlike a certain Disney song). All survive the rough treatment and most eventually soar if allotted enough time to envelop your brain. "Be Nothing." has beauty marks and a steep familiarity curve, but the struggles never really take away from an overall experience of a very thought-through and well-produced album. It’s an album I keep coming back to for more discoveries and afterthoughts.
Download: Laika, Burn You Up, Lead Feet, Fossa, Kill Your Conscience
For The Fans Of: Crooks, Moose Blood, Apologies, I Have None, Bayside
Release date 30.09.2016
Pure Noise Records