I’ve made it no secret that I’m no fan of nostalgia in music. I’ve always felt that when band’s commit to being where they are in the present, they often produce infinitely more consistent art. However, when it comes to a band like Anberlin, I’m more than willing to be called a complete and utter hypocrite.
The Florida alt-rockers where the soundtrack to my high-school days, my gateway into the world of emo and post-hardcore, saving me from being a true thrash head. This band ticked boxes that I didn’t even know mattered to me. From being youth group friendly (I was and still am a church boy), being associated with Tooth and Nail and that label pumping out all manner of church-filling, god-fearing guitar slingers, to producing dark yet uplifting melodies that have now become my go to ‘taste’. Anberlin just really opened me up to a plethora of artists that I had no concept of. For instance, I saw Silverstein open for them in 2009, I discovered acts like mewithoutYou, Emery, Norma Jean and As Cities Burn through the bills Anberlin played and the shirts they wore on-stage.
Most of all, it was the fact that these guys had the character to backup the consistent tunes, which I essentially looked up to when growing up. From always having time for fan’s, never showing any aggression, avoiding music industry drama, always speaking sense – in interviews, at shows and lyrically – it was impossible not to love the members as much as the music they made.
When the band embarked on their farewell tour back in 2015, they put on a show at the UNSW Roundhouse that I’ll never forget, primarily due to the combination of polish from years of touring and a youthful enthusiasm that hadn’t faded since the ‘Blueprints For The Black Market’ days of 2003. It was a truly great victory lap, and felt in no way dated. It’s for that reason that their forthcoming reunion and Australian tour is one that we’re all excited for here, as this band still packs a punch. So here’s a bunch of song’s that prove why Anberlin are one of the best!
Let’s get the cliché out of the way, first shall we? I remember hearing this energised gem for the first time so vividly that ever since, I refer to having an instant connection with something as a “Godspeed moment”. From the orchestral-like wall of guitars that crash into motion at the start, the subtle electronics, to the infectious “hey, hey!” calls in the verse, as well as an ode to a sick metalcore shred solo, this is Anberlin at their most bombastic, their most cynical, and at their peak stadium rock iteration.
‘There’s No Mathematics to Love and Loss’ (‘Cities’)
Honestly, never has a band from the mid-noughties Christian emo-rock scene combined synths and straight alt-rock as flamboyantly or as good as Anberlin did right here. From the abrasive synth intro to wordiest vocal hook that you’ll ever here in one of the choruses, this was a well-dressed and swagger-fuelled cut that would have felt at home on ‘Vital’s‘ or some kind of Depeche–Mode-goes-punk-record. A solid deep cut that showed Anberlin could do more than angsty, guitar-heavy alternative music.
‘Enjoy The Silence’ (‘Lost Song’s’ EP)
Oh, and speaking of Depeche Mode, ‘Lost Song’s is easily one of the most under-rated EP’s ever. Seriously, do not @ me, readers. Stacked full of great B-sides and covers, including some lovely renditions towards the likes of the The Smith’s and Radiohead classics alike. Yet it’s the dark take and wondrous recreation of Depeche Mode’s ‘Enjoy The Silence’ here that takes the whole bloody cake, however. One of the band’s most streamed songs on Spotify, Anberlin captured the bleak moodiness of the 80’s with this sublime disco-esque jam perfectly, still making the melodies and tones sound like authentic Anberlin at all times. Points for the cute little drum fill after the first chorus as well. This was a great way to introduce the band’s younger listeners to some quality 90’s pop. It’s also just a great cover too!
‘Self Starter’ (‘Vitals’)
‘Vitals’ was the LP that Anberlin tried to write when they penned 2008’s ‘New Surrender’. It was a wonderful fusion of aggressive songwriting, super-charged rock with thoughtful moments of pop, plus a splash of dark synths here and there. For the most part, it’s Anberlin running at their creative peak. Opening up the record with the heavy grooves of the brisk belter, ‘Self Starter‘, was a masterstroke. Better yet, when this pocket-rocket is performed live, it translates incredibly well. This will forever be a go-to Anberlin jam!
‘Impossible’ (‘Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place’)
2010’s ‘Dark Is The Way, Light Is A Place’ LP was where the band really mastered the art of writing a sick melody. ‘Impossible’ therefore stands tall as the band’s shiniest work of delay-heavy arena pop-rock, but without it ever sounding like a group cynically and desperately attempting to land a tour alongside artists like Twenty One Pilots, or even Mutemath. When ‘Impossible‘ came out as the first single for this album, I actually wasn’t a fan of it, and even felt a little disappointed that they’d committed to the thoughtful ‘songwriter’ road. However, nearly a decade on and this is an undeniably beautiful, catchy, nostalgia-drenched anthem. Just the way that it was always meant to be. (The song’s slow-mo music video is also a great watch too.)
‘Dismantle. Repair.’ (‘Cities’)
2007’s ‘Cities‘ is crammed full of great songs, like ‘Hello Alone‘. But has there ever been a more dynamically varied tune, condensed into a tight three minutes, that does it’s job to a greater effect than this particular Anberlin banger? Probably not. Perhaps the most un-cheesy breakup song of all time, frontman Stephen Christian does a wonderful job of communicating genuine trauma and heartbreak with his desperate, anxiety riddled lyricism on ‘Dismantle. Repair.‘ The end of the second verse, “I’m never letting goooooo” was aimed at every single crush I ever had when I was 15, despite being way too young to ever have the maturity to talk about “life, God death and family” with a girl. Something also tells me that this massive track also scored the romances that would never be for many other fans out there as well.
‘Paperthin Hymn’ (‘Never Take Friendship Personal’)
Granted, ‘Paperthin Hymn‘ might be one of the most predictable songs to put on this list, but this heart-wrenching tune, penned about the death of Christian’s grandmother, once again gracefully avoids ‘whiny’ territory. Beautiful lines like “August evenings bring solemn warnings to remember to kiss the ones you love goodnight” are sensitive and darkly therapeutic to those either expecting or going through the loss of a loved one. We all think that we have all of the time in the world, right up until we don’t. This song captures that uncertainty and anxiety in organic (and riffy) fashion. The success and size of this track also changed the career’s and lives of the band for the better too. It’s banger central; a classic Anberlin hit.
‘Dance, Dance, Christa Päffgen’ (‘Never Take Friendship Personal’)
So, I guess this is progressive pop-punk, right? The seven-minute epic that closes out 2005’s ‘Never Take Friendship Personal‘ has become a cult favourite amongst die-hard fans when it gets the rare live airing, and given it’s immense build-up and glorious climax, it’s not hard to see why. Bassist Deon Rexroat even once told me that this was the band’s favourite song to play live. Dealing with the effects of substance abuse and how it can messily play out in relationships, this tune fires on every single level, from mature lyrics to intricately crafted guitar lines, all anchored down by the engine-room rhythm section that agonisingly builds in intensity. It’s also got Mike Weiss from mewithoutYou on it, so you know it’s pretty damn good! Fingers crossed that ‘Dance, Dance, Christa Päffgen‘ airs when they visit Australia next month.
Okay, now we’re really closing things out with one of the true Anberlin epics, for the lengthy ‘(*Fin)‘ is huge. It’s hard not to feel choked up when this two-part, eight-minute-spanning behemoth, which begins with a tremolo-riddled acoustic ballad and then explodes into a monolithic, theatrical rock odyssey, all comes crashing to an end with Nathan Young’s simple yet hypnotic drum beats and Christian’s distant vocals. Watching old videos of Anberlin closing out what they (and what we also) thought would be their last ever gig in Florida with this massive piece leaves one speechless. And we will all be so lucky to be able to hopefully hear this excellent composition once again. Anberlin, what a band.
Anberlin’s reunion run hits Australia in May, full dates below:
Sat, MAY 25 The Tivoli – Brisbane, Australia w/ Young Lions
Sun, MAY 26 The Enmore Theatre – Sydney, Australia w/ The Mission in Motion
Wed, MAY 29 Forum – Melbourne, Australia w/ Antiskeptic
Thu, MAY 30 HQ – Adelaide, Australia w/ Capulet
Fri, MAY 31 Metropolis Fremantle – Perth, Australia w/ Elora Danan