Fronting a band that personified all of emo’s stereotypes must have been incredibly frustrating. Considering his former band’s adorable name and adorable album titles, plus his appearance on the Jimmy Eat World record that expanded their fan base to pre-pubescent teenage girls, former Promise Ring singer Davey von Bohlen must get a little tense at any mention of his previous band. Even though they were one of the most adventurous and talented of the late-90’s emo bands.
Frustrating, as it must be, it is impossible to hear Maritime’s third record, Heresy & the Hotel Choir, without the ghosts of the Promise Ring haunting your ears. Especially considering the record sounds just like the lost Promise Ring record: the one between Very Emergency and Wood/Water. This record would have been the bridge to get from the former’s perkiness to the latter’s sleepiness. What Heresy does best is take the caffeine from the carbonated melodies of Very Emergency. von Bohlen is no longer sprinting to the chorus, though he’s not letting it lazily drift by either, as he did on Wood/Water. Take “Aren’t We All Found Out” as an example: right at the point where you think the song’s content to steadily bounce along, he pulls out an entirely unexpected and completely satisfying chorus. The same can be said for “For Science Fiction,” which has a chorus that doesn’t take you by surprise so much as it takes you to the rafters.
Although, sonically, Heresy fits very comfortably between the Promise Ring’s final two records, the substance of von Bohlen’s lyrics set this record vastly apart from anything written during his former band’s career. The plaintive “First Night on Earth” and the monochromatic “Peril,” both ponder existential questions, showing that he has much larger topics on his mind these days then simply “getting busy.”
Perhaps it’s unavoidable. Fronting a band that defined emo leaves a lasting impression on Davey von Bohlen, regardless of the quality of his current band. Whether that impression is a stigma or not, depends on your perspective. If it happens to be a stigma though, it’s a shame—you’re missing out on a very solid record.
(Flame Shovel Records)