April 10, 2003

Lackluster Flame

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In all honesty, I expected this album to suck. Most hardcore bands I’ve heard are really talented at sucking. But I suppose calling Boy Sets Fire a hardcore band is selling them short. They are a lot more than an angst-filled mess of screaming and cursing. Instead, they fuse aspects of industrial, punk, and hardcore together, while layering socially and politically relevant lyrics over their music.

Boy Sets Fire’s frontman, Nathan Gray, is a good singer. In fact, it almost seems wasteful for him to be in a band like his own, as he does more screaming than singing. Also, in comparison with other hardcore bands, Boy Sets Fire provides keen melodic flow and stylistically uniform arrangements.

However, I still found Tomorrow Come Today, their fifth release, to be terribly boring. Almost every song uses the same old tired formula: redundant drumming supporting heavy metal guitar riffs with power chords in the background. Blatantly shoving political awareness down people’s throats can wear thin after a while, too. Maybe I’m just not in tune with political punk rock anymore, but it seems like this has all been done before, i.e. Black Flag, Bad Religion, etc. And while there’s nothing wrong with being unoriginal, there is something wrong with being boring and unorignal.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh. The record isn’t totally boring. “Last Years Nest,” the second track on this record, does exhibit some variety. It starts off with a somewhat-catchy metal riff and descends into the usual lackluster style. But just when you’re about to skip to the next track, a piano comes in to accompany Gray’s powerful voice. The ending is almost optimistic, in contrast to the rather negative tone of the whole album.

Songs like “Full Color Nest,” “Foundations to Burn,” and “White Wedding Dress” all provide a standard hardcore/punk rock background to politically abrasive lyrics. Each tune tackles an important socio-political concern in the band’s eyes: issues such as domestic violence, Bush-fueled militarism, and the hypocrisy of organized religion are all addressed on this record.

One of the more interesting songs on the album is the last one, “With Every Intention.” This is a hidden track for obvious reasons. It’s a rock ballad that could make a good first single, unlike any of the other songs on the rest of the record.

Boy Sets Fire has an important message, but maybe they should tone it down a bit. If Gray is so concerned with pushing the band’s political views, maybe he should write a fucking book. Or better yet, he should consistently write less blatant lyrics and more diverse music with the band. But if you like your political music to be loud and in your face, maybe this is the album for you.

Archived article by Ratheet Pandya