I’ve had this record since around the time it came out; I was actually really anticipating its release. Maybe it was because that happened to be when my school semester got especially hectic and the weather particularly awful, but for whatever reason after 2-3 listens I was of the opinion I didn’t like it at all.
Sometimes I can be so fickle about stuff, and I’m really glad I spent the past week giving this record a second chance. There a lot of fantastic songs here for fans of the Sounds and their genre of revivalist New Wave and synthpop.
The record opens with ‘It’s So Easy’, a little half-song that slow-builds, ramping the synth ever thicker. It’s nice exposition, and I always appreciate a little thought going into a creative album opener. ‘Dance With the Devil’ is a good example of the main problem with this record, which is that it was tailor-made for whatever dance-scene this music sustains. On headphones, it’s really underwhelming, to be honest. Unplug them, though, and pump it through any halfway decent speakers and suddenly the tune comes alive!
That said, there are far more impressive individual tracks, greatest of which is the title track, ‘Something To Die For‘, which we talked about back in March. The album features a slightly different mix of the track with a melancholy lead-in that really suits the song in the greater context of the record.
The first half of the record is a steady climb in song quality, with the other single ‘Better Off Dead’ being another bright spot. ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah‘ is perhaps the artistic limit of how much artificial sound can fit in a song and still have it sound good. The shouting chorus and the bouncing bassline are again at their best when blasted through the air, complete with Ivarsson’s patent nonsensical lyrics. If they meant anything… well, we’ll get there in a second.
‘Won’t Let Them Tear Us Apart’ was a huge, huge disappoint to me, mostly because it’s so good. With one exception: the backing vocals on this song are just stupid. The rest of the band’s collective falsetto ‘Listen! Hear it!’ are the most distracting, obnoxious thing on this record. If you could somehow surgically remove them from this song, it very well could be the best four minutes on the entire damn album. Frustrating, but still enjoyable on average.
The last two songs take us in a different direction for the album, but not necessarily uncharted territory for the band. ‘The Best of Me‘ is a heartfelt song about growing up that, maybe because I’m a disillusioned 20-something, I really related to:
The vocals cut like a knife and actually have a coherent message/story for once. This was the type of material that was just barely hinted at in 2009’s Crossing the Rubicon, and is advanced another small step here. Pairing the bounce of synthpop with the boilerplate melodrama of a normal indie rock song plays out with delightfully surprising efficacy.
I’ll state here that this track is my metric for future Sounds records. They need to find the groove of this type of song and run with it. Will they ever be ‘music that matters’? I hope not, because that would mean all the fun had been drained from it. They certainly have the opportunity for more depth of emotion, however, and I’d like to see that in subsequent efforts.