Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Assistant: We'll Make the Roads by Walking

Review # 19
Artist: The Assistant
Title: We'll Make the Roads by Walking
Format: LP
Label: Scene Police
Year: 2003
Songs: 7

Like the 7 Seconds record I began this blog with, this is a record I inherited from my friend Tim that I had never actually played before starting this project. I actually got rid of some of his records shortly after I got them because I either already had them or knew I didn't want them. I kept this one, actually, after misreading the band name--I had mistaken this for a record by a local hardcore band called The Assailant, who I think were ok, but not good enough that I felt the need to actually listen to the record any time soon after getting it.

Turns out this is by a completely different band, The Assistant. This record is seven songs of pretty excellent progressive hardcore, reminiscent at times of Refused and some of the better emocore bands of the 1990s. The bass is apparently all synth and there's also some other keyboard work on some of these songs, but it's subtle enough that you really only hear it at certain points--it's not keyboard driven, the keyboard mostly adds some extra texture or dramatic flare here and there. Urgent male and female vocals that scream out in desperation at some points but sing melodically at others contribute to the dynamism of this record. I don't think any song on the album maintains the same tempo all the way through, and several have time signature changes as well. Things will be plugging along on a standard 4/4 rock beat and then suddenly turn into a waltz.

Lyrically, these songs deal with everything from geopolitics to overcoming the pain of high school experiences to consumerism to the consequences of drug abuse.  The lyrics and are thoughtful and the included booklet contains extensive explanations of each song. Sometimes the explanations are longer than the lyrics, but they're often a good read. This band is serious about being honest and laying their thoughts and motivations out for their listeners, and the honesty here makes you understand the emotions and thoughts that they pour into these compelling hardcore songs.

The only moment on this record that was a little silly to me was the vocal delivery on the first song, "Be Nice To Me, I Had a Ruff Day."  The songs deals with trying to maintain a positive outlook on life in the face of a world that can make that very difficult.  I think this is a great message, but the tortured screaming of lines like "I will try to wake up with a smile on my face" strikes me as more than a little incongruous. By no means is this sort of thing unique to the assistant--many bands that have screamy vocals do songs about things they're not actually angry about, but this has always seemed a little weird to me. If you scream about everything, the scream can lose it's power.

All in all though, this is a really good, inventive, hardcore record that displays both musical prowess and passion, a combination one finds too seldom in punk rock music. This will be in my regular rotation from here on out.

Total songs listened: 234

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