If the expression of emotion is essential to the experience itself, then perhaps Hidden in Plain View have found the appropriate manner for the sort of feelings their musical genre is so infamous for. As our body functions, so does our emotional functionality – as in the way our body reacts during the emotion makes for a great deal of the emotion itself. Yet as many young emo-derived rock/punk bands have apparently shown, emotional potency is achieved only from the exaggerated flailing on stage (yes you doing backflips while swirling your mic during mid-song spazzing out) and the chronic screaming on tape. It certainly makes for raucous performances and the record will definitely increase sales of aspirin but it seems they’re missing the point. Intensity is not who sings the loudest; it is not who is most crazy live, but rather who is most effective in causing another person’s body to react in such a way that they feel the one shared underlining emotion of a certain place and time.
So what is the difference between Hidden in Plain View and the host of generic, pseudo-affecting, overbearing emo bands that have risen like the great plague in recent years (I’m pointing my finger at YOU Matchbook Romance)? Well perhaps it has a lot to do with this EP itself, a brief five songs that lessen the burden of egregious self-reflection and poetic attempts at social/economic commentary. I am not a scholar but for one am sure that people who have yet to study high level psychology and human behavior (if the members of HIPV are psychology graduates, please feel free to correct me) cannot simply dismiss the pain, the hurt and the suffering and confusion as the result of ‘YOU.’ Who is ‘You’? When Thrice bellow “You think they’re selling you truth / truth is they’re selling you out”, who are they talking about? When Finch sings “Do you notice I’m gone? / Where do you run to so far away?” are they talking about the critic who ran for the hills upon listening to their work? Perhaps the biggest problem with this here little scene is its reluctance to move the emotion from the loneliness of one’s bedroom to the seemingly vast loneliness of the world. And while Hidden in Plain View escapes not from these shades, there are moments where they actually turn the feeling into something worth sharing.
In “Where The Highways End”, the surrounding musical backdrop of sweeping melodies, sweetly sugared rock and its emphasis on “we” is far from the reclusive nature of this very dreary musical view. The heartland-like lyrics (“its 6am, open roads and open skies / under this Wyoming sunrise”) and pretense-free disposition makes it the EP’s strongest offering. It is however followed by a real turd of a song that makes play for everything bad about this sort of music – just an example of how it can so easily shift. Yet as most of the EP goes, it is far better than the music of many of their peers. Is Hidden in Plain View essential? Not by any means, but when the rest of the herd are scraping the bottom of the barrel, Hidden in Plain View see distinct timbre in reaching outside their “defined” constructs. Perhaps it is the nature of a short release – to try and squeeze in everything that is good in condensed time – that has thankfully forced them to cut away the fat so to speak. Maybe their genre needs to give them a little more credit (or maybe we should restrict all emo bands to no more than five songs on any given release) because from where I’m listening, they’re one of the few who do this sort of thing with enough fervency to last the long, cold winter.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.