The Great American Novel

Written by: PP on 21/05/2022 10:50:03

Proper's vocalist Erik Garlington describes their third album "The Great American Novel" as a "concept album about how Black genius, specifically my own, goes ignored, is relentlessly contested, or just gets completely snuffed out before it can flourish,”. It's a record about a Holden Caulfield type of character's experiences in America, offering a unique take on emo as a genre by presenting it from an altogether different lens that sources its inspiration from the band's African-American heritage rather than the white America of most other bands in the scene. Subsequently, "The Great American Novel" might be one of the most creative and unconventional records you'll have heard within emo in quite some time.

The record is drenched in a gloomy atmosphere. Pensive notes of sorrow and heavy-heartedness are a constant theme throughout, resulting in complex, highly varied songs that explore a depth-laden lyrical universe. "Shuck & Jive" might be a noisy, yet catchy piece of emo with pop punk undertones about the underpaid feeling of up-and-coming artists in the music industry, but then "Red White & Blue" is its polar opposite, a dark, murky sociopolitical commentary of today's America.

Stylistically, we find ourselves somewhere in the intricate world of Brand New and perhaps Seahaven to name but a few, with few nods towards early output by Coheed & Cambria (see the rich guitar landscape of "In The Van Somewhere Outside Of Birmingham", for example) as well as inspiration sourced from the post-rock world of a band like The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die.

The record can be heavy, even metallic in places. "McConnell", for instance, features a crushing thrash metal riff that's contrasted by somber vocals, yet features a piercing lyrical universe. It's a loud, abrasive and angry song that perfectly dissects Mitch McConnell's character as one of the most damaging senators in US history. But as mentioned before, the record is full of contrasts. "Ganymede", for instance, is an indie-flavored, brighter sounding track with a hint of optimism attached to it, whereas "Done Talking" is a shouty, almost hardcore-esque track with Rage Against The Machine style guitar effects attached to it.

Putting all of the above together, it's clear that "The Great American Novel" takes emo and morphs it into something almost unrecognizable. Through creative exploration of multiple styles and soundscapes, most of it drenched in a depressingly heavy, down-trodden ambiance, it certainly showcases an alternative take on what is possible to do with the genre.

But once the novelty of its soundscape wears off, what's left is a messy, somewhat chaotic listening experience without the music itself necessarily being of chaotic variety. It's low on memorable sing-alongs, and given its consistently bleak and disheartening sound, it is also a difficult listen most of the time. That being said, its mood is perfect for capturing elements of a struggle that will make it a great backdrop for people having similar issues of their own. As such, "The Great American Novel" is a solid album, without necessarily being a spectacular one.

Download: Shuck & Jive; Mcconnell; Red, White & Blue; Ganymede; The Routine
For the fans of: Brand New, Coheed And Cambria, Seahaven, The Dangerous Summer, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die
Listen: Official Website

Release date 25.03.2022
Father/Daughter Records / Big Scary Monsters

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