An album that’s not only positively reminiscent of the garage rock kings, but one that positions Sorority Noise as the rightful heirs to their throne.
Label: Topshelf Records
Released: 29th June 2015
The delicately arpeggiated chords that see in ‘Blissth’ sound like the prelude to a tender, innocent love song. In fact, you’d be forgiven for letting your guard down in the seventeen-odd seconds it takes for vocalist Cameron Boucher to begin his hushed serenade, a deceptively inviting lullaby. However, a suspicion soon arises that this opening track from ‘Joy, Departed’ isn’t quite so wholesome. Pleading for an unnamed subject to let him be “the drug that you use to fall in love,” and “the heroin that helps keep you warm enough,” in the opening couplet presents an unexpected incongruity in tone and content, but is hardly skin-crawling stuff. Soon after this, though, Boucher declares his will to be “the water in your lungs,” and laments he can “still hear you sing, but you’ll never sing for me,” and it becomes abundantly clear that there’s a scorned undertone here, something far more sinister than first anticipated.
That underlying darkness doesn’t end there. Previous material saw Connecticut’s Sorority Noise grouped in with the countless other ’emo revival’ bands to have emerged from America’s east coast in recent years; this, their second full-length, sees the band (once a side-project to Boucher’s previous focus, Old Gray) outgrowing that particular tag and truly deserving much more than throwaway categorisation. Key to this is how candidly Boucher bares his soul here. Though never a cheerful band by any stretch, the emotional depths that they’re now hitting and the voyeuristic transparency offered to the listener is certainly bold new ground for them.
Vaguely defeatist admissions that he’ll “never be the one that you need,” during ‘Corrigan’ (on which Modern Baseball’s Brendan Lukens makes a brief appearance) were once about as deep as Sorority Noise would cut. Long-time listeners might be caught off guard, then, by the likes of ‘Using’; a frank confessional with admissions to alcoholism, pill addiction and even suicidal thoughts, along with all the guilt and confusion that accompany such tragic circumstances; or ‘Your Soft Blood’ which strongly hints towards a struggle with social anxiety and depression.
There’s a bleak maturity to everything here, detailing the darkest of post-teen experiences, warts ‘n’ all. That such dark subject matter has been transposed into brilliantly written, often impossibly catchy, major-key rock songs takes nothing away from that. No matter how brave a face is worn on these songs, the underlying pain that anchors them is impossible to overlook – not a million miles away from what made Weezer’s ‘Pinkerton’ such an enthralling listen.
As it happens, the ‘W’ word is never too far from mind. As well as the deceptively perky top-layer, there’s also some undeniably Weez-y guitar work on the record (know that lead guitar tone you hear in your head at the mere mention of that particular band? That one). Add to that the gloriously delivered choruses of ‘Nolsey’ and in particular the Britpop-leaning ‘Art School Wannabe’, and you’ve got yourself an album that’s not only positively reminiscent of the garage rock kings, but one that positions Sorority Noise as the rightful heirs to their throne. Ryan De Freitas