There is no other record label that I can think of that has been more consistent the No Idea Records. The home grown Gainesville, Florida label, modeling itself off of Dischord records, has been putting out great, intense records for many, many years. Young Livers is one of those bands, spurn from the swamps and heat of Gainsesville to reinterpret the gritty, post punk, post hardcore rock and roll sound. Their long awaited second album Of Misery and Toil delivers the gut punch, but this time with more finesse and skill.
The band debuted with a frantic, visceral debut The New Drop Era back in late 2007. That album was eight songs of pure instinct. The songs were bursts of angular rock music, styled similar to Hot Water Music and Leatherface, but providing much more fury in the place of impassioned anger. With this new set, Of Misery and Toil shows a band that has grown by leaps and bounds, defining their own sounds and style. Along the way they’ve added some extra emotions to the mix.
The guitar playing has grown, organically with more melodic resonances. You still get the amazing riffs, but the added layers of guitar really make the songs brighter and more full. The full on overdrive exists, but it’s like going from a muscle car to a German engineered luxury car. Never has dirty and heavy sounded so beautiful. the interplay of the guitars is reminiscent of the best parts of Braid, but without the pesky mid song tempo changes.
At first listen the addition of Mike Carter of Glass and Ashes felt like it was taking some of the identity of Young Livers away. But his distinct, shredded vocals add an extra dynamic. Young Livers are superb at this sing song shouting vocal style. There is no other band like them, so at first, when Carter’s Glass and Ashes injection hits, it’s noticeable, and suddenly you feel like maybe the band has given way. But after more listens, it’s clear that Young Livers are there own project.
Songs like “In Rapid Succession” are indicative of this, starting out almost verbatim to the Glass and Ashes destructive sounds. But the melodic chorus, with thundering drum hits courtesy of Chris Jordan, give it a much more tribal, upbeat drive. This is the distinction. Young Livers has the challenge of towing the line between original and bearers of the “Gainseville Sound”. But they are unrelenting in their uptempo and energy, never slowing for a moment to give the listener a break. Hot Water Music may have defined a stylistic aesthetic, bread from listening to Inquisition and Avail. But where they favored a little bit temperament, Young Livers are an onslaught of bombastic drums, grumbling bass, gritty shouting and excellent guitar work that is both crunchy and pretty.
I had very high hopes for this album, and Young Livers did not disappoint. Of Misery and Toil makes my heart race. I want to run around the block. When listening to it while driving I pound on my steering wheel and shout along with the few lyrics I can remember. The territory is familiar, but the details are accentuated with ease and grace. Young Livers obviously love the bands that influenced them, but they are so much better. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Gainesville has a new hometown hero.
This EP, no joke is so much better then East/West that I can’t even listen to that record anymore, and when that shit came out, I was all about Bridge and Tunnel. This band keeps getting better and better as time goes on. Similar to the sonic beauty of Young Livers, Bridge and Tunnel layer that awesome guitar noodeling over crunchy chords. But this band is way more pop friendly and sing-a-long inspiring. Also, they vary things up a bit with interludes between parts. The Braid influence really comes out pretty strong on these five songs.
That’s actually my only complaint though. The last track “Room to Let” starts out very slow and pretty, but then the Bridge and Tunnel A.D.D. sets in and they just go for it, pounding and strumming like their lives depend on it. And that shit has it’s place, but I almost wonder if they could write a post punk ballad like “I Keep A Diary”. They’ve definitely had there moments at that, but I feel the urge to rock just takes them over a bit too much.
I read recently that this band lost it’s bass player and got a new dude. I am going to see them in a few weeks, so I hope the dynamic hasn’t changed to dramatically. Because seriously this band is pretty fucking awesome. I haven’t seen them in a few years, and last time I did it was at a basement show I actually played. But these kids fucking slayed shit like no one’s business and had a lot of fun while doing so.
I will admit, I don’t really know a lot of Sigur Ros, the Icelandic band fronted by Jonsi Birgisson. A friend of mine gave me a copy of one of their albums, and I found it intriguing, but I couldn’t really sink my teeth into it. I don’t really know why. On paper, they should be right up my alley. Weirdo dudes that make lush music and sing in a language they made up. Oh yea and this Jonsi guy plays the guitar with a bow like Jimmy Page did on some Led Zepplin video I saw when I was a kid, the images of which I can’t get out my head, despite not being into Led Zepplin at all. So when my same friend told me about this pop album I was like, let me hear that shit, not thinking it would be my thing, but whatever. This shit is magical. Seriously, I’m gonna have to go back and check more of this Sigur Ros stuff out because this guy is a genius. I know this is nothing like Sigur Ros, but it’s clear by the presentation of this music that Jonsi Bigisson does not fuck around.
Go is a big sounding record. Everything sounds so clean and crisp. The drums are loud, boomy and have lots of room without overstating themselves. The vocals and pretty and glossy. There are lots of odd little blips and bleeps throughout that help transition between the different modes. “Animal Arithmetic” is an upbeat, almost gay nightclub dance beat. The only reference I can find is that song “Let Go” by Frou Frou from the Garden State soundtrack. Actually this whole album kind of reminds me of that song, but way more interesting. The songs are well structured, but they go to very weird and unexpected places.
The vocals are awesome as shit too. They kind of remind me of Jeremy Engick a little bit. They have that same, high pitch warble that sounds almost child like and innocent. There is a certain peaceful quality to Jonsi’s voice. But of course, picturing it emanating from a grown male also gives it a bit of spooky, gothic quality. It’s soothing, but uneasy at the same time. Talk about a head fuck.
This dude is probably gonna have a set audience and people are probably gonna go see him, but if you are not yet in the know, get in the know like I did. The bandwagon is filling up, the hype should come and Go should be a record we look back upon in a few years and see it’s influence. This music has a place in all types of collections. I have a feeling Hip Hops gonna notice and yr gonna hear this shit in new ways in a few years. If it doesn’t and I am wrong, oh well. This record is burning it’s way up my play list.
Hardcore music was never that interesting to me in the past. I find listening to a lot of the “classic” hardcore bands fairly pedestrian. Product always seemed like it was more important then production and I never found much to latch onto in those thin sounding records. Pretty much if you think a certain hardcore record is the shit from anything before 1995 I would probably disagree with you. In fact it wasn’t until No More Dreams of Happy Endings by Damnation AD that I even remotely considered hardcore, and it was probably another 11 or 12 year gap between that album and anything else that I cared for. No joke. So, no, I never got into 108 before about two weeks ago when I listened to A New Beat from a Dead Heart. That album was punishing. I couldn’t believe Hare Krishna’s or ex Hare Krishna’s could put out something so violent.
I will also fully admit that the whole Hare Krishna business put me off to 108 and their brethren Shelter back in the 90’s. Much like their ideological relatives in straight edge, I found Krishna consciousness to be a false positive movement, shrouded in ego centric, self righteousness as well as plagued with homophobic and sexist rules while pretending to be spiritual and righteous. A generation of punk kids, emulating the mainstream but pretending to be searching for nirvana or some bullshit was wholly unnecessary.
Sadly, I feel the same way about 18.61 too. Intended to be an EP at first, 108’s instinct was probably correct and they should have stuck with it. Where A New Beat from a Dead Heart showed a reunited band at an musical exploration peak, 18.61 just feels watered down and lacking focus. This is generally the case for anything created in the studio. I don’t believe that hardcore and punk rock lends it self to spontaneity all of the time. They are very structured types of music, even in their most simple form. But another quality of punk rock that is important is confidence, and spontaneity can lack that a lot of times.
This seems tragically unfair, for a novice to review this album and not give it any credit. But even in new findings, where I am relatively uneducated, I expect the best. I’ve gotten into quite a few Deathwish bands over the last few years and they have delivered. 108 has even done it for me too. But 18.61 just lacks the prowess and power I have come to expect. Blacklisted’s latest No One Deserves To Be Here More Than Me nearly rejected hardcore, had odd elements that seem ill advised and was a wholly confusing record. But even with in that, those boys were confident as all hell and it seeps though ever pour of that record. 108 has a legacy that is loved by many, and have reinserted themselves into the hardcore music arena, but age should have tempered their impetuousness. Yes, I believe they should have known better. If you want to get punched in the face and have a bit of mysticism to boot, check out A New Beat from a Dead Heart. Otherwise, 18.61 can get a pass.