In the time it takes you to read this review, you could have listened to the album and formed your own god-damn opinion.
As opening lines go, how does that one hit you? Does it make you want to read on? Does it elicit a bemused ‘lolwut’ or even a confused ‘dafuq’? I’ve been reading a lot about opening sentences recently. Supposedly the opening sentence is the key to capturing your readers’ attention.
A snappy headline, a punchy opening sentence and that’s it: you’ve either hooked your readership or lost them forever. I wonder if the same is true of music these days? In era of ever-tightening attention spa… OOH LOOK – LOLCATS!
Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, short attention spans. Ever since the inception of iTunes, the album has supposedly been on its way out. Nowadays, the idea of a bunch of hippies sitting down with a Pink Floyd LP and synching it with the Wizard of Oz in order to trip out to its uncanny verisimilitude from start to finish is as strange as, well, as strange as the idea of a bunch of hippies sitting down with a Pink Floyd LP and synching it with the Wizard of Oz.
Did iTunes kill the album or did shit albums kill the album?
Either way, it’s a moot point. While there’s nothing preventing you from sitting down and listening to 12 songs curated by your favourite band back-to-back, why would you want to? Why the hell would you subject yourself to someone else’s dubious taste in music? Even when it’s a band you really love – a band whose tastes you respect – who are they to tell you which songs you should be listening to and in which order?
If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that attempting to exterminate an entire nation is morally dubious and fiendishly tricky to achieve. If there’s two things that history has taught us, it’s also that we can’t trust the judgement of our favourite bands. Getting overly-attached to any group of musicians is a fatal mistake. One minute they’re wooing you with Appetite for Destruction – the next (read: 21 years later) they’re alienating you with Chinese Democracy.
How to write an average album
If you’ve ever wondered why most albums contain a few standout songs surrounded by eight tracks of bloatware, here’s why:
1. The band start jamming.
2. A promising riff emerges.
3. A few hours of jamming later and that promising riff is starting to turn into a promising song. Will the song prove to be as promising as the promising riff promises to be? It’s too early to tell, but the signs are promising.
4. Having jammed the riff for the better part of 20 hours, it has now evolved into a song. Unfortunately, by this point, the band are incapable of hearing it with fresh ears. Is it a tune, or is it just a promising riff wedded to an underachieving song? It’s impossible to tell. The band record a rough demo and move on to the next song. They can decide later.
5. Six months later. The band are in pre-production with the hot-shot producer who’s going to try and turn their rough demos into a sellable album. He likes one riff in particular and reckons that with a bit of work, the track could be turned into a hit single.
6. The producer suggests rewriting the middle eight and adding a string section to heighten the touching sentiments that underpin the lyrics. The band consent to give it a try.
7. One rewrite, one orchestra and several remixes later and the song is finished. It’s got a cracking guitar riff and the middle eight is quite pleasant. The song flags in places, and perhaps hasn’t quite lived up to its early potential, but it’s still a perfectly respectable track. A lot of time, effort and money has gone into creating the song; to skip it now would be profligate. The solution? Stick it on the new album – probably buried somewhere towards the final third. It may not have mutated into an absolute killer, but hey, perhaps the band will fare a little better with the next song to be tampered with in pre-production…
And that is how an album is made: a bunch of reasonable songs interspersed with a couple of crackers. Every now and then – approximately once a decade – a band will get lucky and somehow conjure up 12 classics in succession, but by my reckoning, we haven’t witnessed such a feat since Taking Back Sunday released Tell All Your Friends, and even then you’ll only concur if you happen to share a similar taste in whiny emo music.
On the plus side, assuming that broad statement to be broadly true, we must be due another great album from, well, anyone round about now. Could it be Billy Talent with Dead Silence? To save you from leg-crossing, hand-wringing suspense, I’ll tell you now: no. No it isn’t. Dead Silence isn’t that album, but don’t let that deter you from giving it a spin: it’s actually pretty good. So good in fact that the good to not-so-good songs ratio is tilted in the former’s favour – a feat which is a lot harder than it sounds.
Back in the day
The phrase ‘classic album’ traditionally references a revered LP from a group of stuffy rock stalwarts, the sort of affair that middle-aged men in navel-height denims like to fap over on VH1 while appraising its impeccable harmonies and iconic artwork. Depressing as that image may be, what’s even more depressing is that we’d take a so-called classic album in a heartbeat were it offered to us today over the auto-tuned, over-sampled fodder that clutters iTunes, Spotify and The Pirate Bay. Those members of Queen, The Beatles and Pink Floyd that are still kicking around can fuck off and die as far as I’m concerned – and yet I’d take Revolver or Queen II over Ed Sheeran any day of the week.
Meanwhile, in the present day…
An album review can not be written in dead silence, and thus to acclimatise myself to Billy Talent’s latest offering, I have listened to Dead Silence approximately 8,000 times this month. When an internet blogger reaches that sort of play count, he feels pretty much compelled to listen to it another 1,000 times – and then once more just for good measure. During the course of appraising Dead Silence from every possible angle, I’ve reached the same staggering conclusion as I did after the first five plays – ‘Fuck me, there’s some good songs on here!’ Not so good as to cause spaghetti to drip down my trouser leg and cause a gloopy mess on the floor perhaps, but certainly enough to compel me to hit the play button another 7,995 times and counting.
So now that we’ve written a pre-amble that’s rambling enough to validate my opening sentence (In the time it takes you to read this review, you could have listened to the album and formed your own god-damn opinion), we may as well proceed with the review itself.
This review was supposed to be published a couple of weeks ago – round about the time of the album’s release, funnily enough. It’s been delayed for a number of reasons however, including my complete inability to organise my life coupled with the album disappearing from Grooveshark for a week which prevented me from streaming it. (Hardly the behaviour of an ardent fan, I’ll concede, but certainly the behaviour of a skint blogger.)
There’s also another reason why it’s taken me so long to put this review together: the accompanying images taken by Ed Uncovered’s new photographer, Allana Morrison, are awesome. Like, so awesome that it is impossible to describe them without resorting to profanity: they’re fucking awesome and I wanted to conjure up a review that would do them justice.
Whenever I set about composing a blog for Ed Uncovered, I put pressure on myself to come up with the best god-damn piece ever – until the next one at least. Every time I write – for myself, as opposed to a client demanding 1,000 words on rare earth metals – I write with the attitude that if I were to be knocked down by a bus tomorrow, once humanity (OK, make that ‘the handful of mates who give a fleeting fuck’) had finished loling at the cliched manner of my demise, they’d take a moment to glance back over my blog and think ‘Well at least he went out at the top of his game’.
Realistically, the odds of you liking the same shouty Canadian punk band as me are overwhelmingly small. Moreover, the odds of me convincing you of their awesomeness during the course of a review – no matter how enticingly it is written – are similarly small.
I’m not here to convert you to Billy Talent. Ater all, much as I love them, they’re not even my favourite band; if I had to choose any band from my playlist to force upon you, it probably wouldn’t be BT. My aim – at the very least – however is to convey the shivery feeling I get when hearing a great band at their peak; the same feeling you get when listening to one of your favourite songs by one of your favourite bands. If you never get that feeling, you’re either listening to the wrong bands or you just don’t like music that much.
I can tell you a lot of things, but I can’t tell you who to listen to. I don’t mind being branded a fascist – provided it’s not a musical one. That said, if Ed Sheeran is in your iTunes, you’re doing it all wrong – delete Sheeran and then delete iTunes in favour of a music player that doesn’t compel you to update every six nanoseconds.
When I listen to the best bits of Dead Silence, I get the following feelings:
Elation; euphoria; musical frisson and an overwhelming urge to punch the air. Late at night, shoreside, driving too fast with the music too loud and the windows too far down in the company of a girl who’s far too pretty for the face life allocated you. Hands resting on the rim of the sunroof, the downdraught drowned out by the boom of Jon Gallant’s bass and the spiky staccato of Ian D’Sa’s staccato riffing, perfectly punctuated by the crack of Aaron Solowoniuk’s snare, imitating Ben Kowalewicz’s inimitable voice at the top of your lungs as he implores ‘C’mon patch me up or cut me loose, cause these rags are turning loose.’
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard the song in question and never will. All that matters is that you know that feeling when you hear that song, that unmistakeable sound of four musicians making you feel more alive in the space of four minutes than you have in an entire week of work, life and leisure.
Without music, we are nothing.
Great music takes you to a place that drugs, alcohol and sex can never reach – unless they’re accompanied by great music of course, in which case the awesomeness is compounded by a factor of five. And yet, paradoxically, it’s possible to go from dawn till dusk with a set of headphones wedged in your ears and to never transcend the banality of your surroundings. If that’s the case, you’ve only got yourself to blame. We can’t always choose our social status and working environment, but we can sure as hell choose the tunes we listen to. If your music isn’t elevating your mood and hastening your stride, the solution’s simple: ditch your favourite bands and find some new ones.
Life’s too short to tolerate mediocrity.
In the time it’s taken you to read this review, you could have read this review. Aren’t you glad you did?
My work here is done – now I’m off to play chicken in front of the number 12 bus. If I’m still here on Monday, perhaps there’ll be a brand new Ed Uncovered blog, clamouring to outdo the last one.
PS: Don’t like my writing? Ditch it and find a better blog to follow. Life’s too short to tolerate mediocrity.
Follow @whisperednothin ⇦ Ed Uncovered on Twitter.
The dead sexy images that sexed up this Dead Silence review were taken by Allana Morrison – Ed Uncovered’s new photographic genius (and I’m not just spitting superlatives to keep her happy, honestly.) She also created the smart Twitter bird that features in this blog. You’ll hopefully be seeing plenty more of Allana’s work in the coming weeks on EU. In the meantime, her portfolio can be viewed here.
Dead Silence, track by track.
1. Lonely Road to Absolition: [PLAY]
2. Viking Death March: [REPEAT]
3. Surprise Surprise: [SKIP]
4. Runnin’ Across the Tracks [REPEAT]
5. Love Was Still Around [REPEAT]
6. Stand Up and Run [SKIP]
7. Crooked Minds [PLAY]
8. Man Alive! [PLAY]
9. Hanging by a Thread [REPEAT]
10. Cure for the Enemy [PLAY]
11. Don’t Count on the Wicked [PLAY]
12. Show me the Way [SKIP]
13. Swallowed Up by the Ocean [REPEAT]
14. Dead Silence [PLAY]
Follow @whisperednothin ⇦ Ed Uncovered on Twitter.