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On a recent Facebook Q&A live stream, Dan Jacobs, the guitarist of Atreyu said (and this is a paraphrase somewhat) that the word ‘raw’ is an appropriate way to describe good albums that sound like shit in the recording and mix departments. That definition can most certainly be attached to 2014’s ‘Stomachaches’, the debut album from frnkiero andthe cellabration, and no my autocorrect did not just shit itself.
However, two years on from that first record and we have a new album as well as a moniker change as frnkiero andthe cellabration have now become Frank Iero And The Patience. And their new album is anything but ‘raw’ in terms of its production. Sonically, this album is much tighter, cleaner and far more polished in its recording and mix across all the instruments and the vocals. Which is to be expected, as it’s just the natural progression from a band’s first release, in the traditional sense, to sound better and be less rough around the edges. However, I actually think that this is to detriment of ‘Parachutes‘, despite it still being quite the solid album. Let me present my case.
See, ‘Joyriding’ and ‘Tragician‘ were so visceral and intensive because of their mix, ‘Weighted’ and ‘All I Want Is Nothing’ are so anthemic because of their mix, and ‘She’s the Prettiest Girl at the Party, and She Can Prove It with a Solid Right Hook‘ is so haunting and sublime because of its what, everybody? That’s right, its production values (or the lack thereof in that case). But while I wouldn’t call ‘Stomachaches‘ perfect by any means, I must say that I really do prefer it than its current predecessor. With that being said, do not for one single fucking instant assume that I wouldn’t recommend this release because I do. ‘Parachutes‘ is a quality punk rock album with lyrical darkness, lively dynamics, and melodic hooks in all the right places and it is more than worthy of the 40 minutes that you’ll spend with it.
‘Veins’ is a beautiful burst of energy and angst, as is the mid-album rager and personal standout, ‘Dear Percocet’, which has the band’s heaviest set of riffs to date. These two songs, in particular, harken back to Iero’s time in the brilliant but short-lived Leathermouth, both in the vocal deliveries, and the level of aggression displayed. I would also like to take the time now to appreciate that aforementioned band and I ask that you go look up ‘Body Snatchers 4ever’ right now if you haven’t before. It’s okay. I’ll wait.
Moving swiftly onwards, ‘Parachutes’ is nowhere near as viscous as Leathermouth was and this record has a far stronger sense of melody and as we’ve well and truly established by now, more sonic polish. But the sonic and musical intensity from ‘Stomachaches‘ has now been somewhat shifted over to the song’s lyrics and themes. So if you thought that the band’s debut was a truly cathartic record and an emotional rollercoaster than this new newbie is even more honest and emotionally cut-throat. ‘I’m A Mess’ is a great example of this, as is ‘Remedy’ and the absolutely crushing album closer, ‘September 6th’, a wonderfully heartfelt and beautifully messy ode to Iero’s deceased grandfather, all of which hit home and hard. Elsewhere, a tight, well-rounded package of all of these lyrical/thematic and musical elements comes to a head with the almost-upbeat anthem of the grand ‘Existential Crisis’, an easy contender for the record’s best song.
Now, when you take the explosive punk rock side of the band out of the equation, you get the dark, and low-key snow-baller of ‘They Wanted Darkness’, which may just have the best intro the band has written and is a terrific case study in control and release. Likewise, the slower, lighter side of the band breathes through with ‘Viva Indifference‘ and ‘I’ll Let You Down’, and even if the band is at their best when they’re running full-speed, these two songs break up the records flow well and allow for some breathing room for both you and the band.
But further down this path, you’ll find the soft, acoustic country-like reprieve of ‘Miss Me’. This song is a big pitfall of the record as the vocals are panned hard left and the acoustic guitar is panned hard right. I’m all for cool production and mix techniques but goddamnit, this just sounded downright weird, especially via headphones. If the intention was to change up the stereo imaging of the record, then mission accomplished but goddamnit, the emotion in this track misses it’s landing zone as I just cannot get past the panning as it comes at the expense of the song!
Either way, this still a really solid record and it’s clear to see that Iero has hit a strong formula with this sound and with his current three bandmates (guitarist Evan Nestor, drums Matt Olsson, and new bassist Alex Grippo). And hey, 11 out of 12 tracks ain’t bad!
Finally, I now look forward to the band’s next moniker change – Frank Iero And The Underground Sad Faces.
‘Parachutes’ is an emotionally honest and intense record backed up by 11 solid punk rock songs (and a sonically bemusing acoustic track), and despite not being as visceral nor as captivating as ‘Stomachaches’ was, this is a solid follow-up release nonetheless. Of course, if you listened to their debut and thought ‘I like this, but oh man, I wish this wasn’t recorded on a fucking potato’, then you’re in luck; ‘Parachutes’ should hopefully be the record for you!
Also, did you notice how I didn’t once mention My Chemical Romance in this review until just now? Yeah, that’s because I am just that bloody good at what I do!
- World Destroyer
- I’m A Mess
- They Wanted Darkness
- I’ll Let You Down
- Dear Percocet
- Miss Me
- Existential Crisis
- Viva Indifference
- September 6th
‘Parachutes’ is out now via Vagrant Records & Cooking Vinyl. Before I sign off for this review, all of us here at KYS are all very happy to hear Iero and co. are doing well after their accident in Sydney a few weeks back. Get well soon, guys!