The full disclosure that many of you already know is that the men of More Than Yesterday are friends of mine. If you and I have ever talked about the band, you may also have realized that I hold them to a higher standard than other musicians, because of their album You Make Your Own Self Fall. It is a brilliant, flawless piece of catchy, emotional hardcore that dropped into me with more weight than anything else during a musically formative time for me. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m well-equipped to write about MTY’s new record, and also the hue and saturation of the lens I view it through.
(Ups to the guys for streaming the whole record from morethanyesterday.com.
Fourth track “Somebody Saved” is far and away the best tune MTY has produced since You Make Your Own Self Fall. The chorus explodes out into the open air, guitar soaring while the bass simultaneously drops away, and Russ makes simple words and accessible emotions sound fresh and deep. It’s viscereal, vital music; at their best, MTY are entirely capable of taking listeners to these heights.
“Take A Breath” plays back and forth with minor/major frames. It also has a new, vaguely sexy quality that surprised me; maybe it’s been lurking under the surface in others’ ears, but not in mine until now. “It’s alright to watch you walk away this time” – one of the best lines on the album, saying the opposite of what is expected from hardcore; peace & acceptance rather than angst.
“As I Am” and “Breakdown” are the two tracks repeated from More Than Yesterday’s last disc (as Blacklight Sunshine), A Thousand Miles of Hope and Sorrow. Both are solid but not spectacular; “Breakdown” includes one that eclipses the original version. “Not Enough” is a sort of aggressive tone poem, with a repititious guitar figure and lyrics that forgo obvious verse/chorus structure and dynamics.
“So Beautiful” is hobbled by lyrics that are a hodgepodge of plain, tired hardcore phrases. “Should I blame it on my friends?” contains an obvious answer to its own question; that it is even asked aloud is lazy. Of course not; write a better line, it’s clear that Russ knows better! “Hard To Fight It”, “Savior”, and “The Last Time” have the same sticking point; good music, utilitarian melody, 10th grade poetry.
(Except for the bridge of “The Last Time,” which is killer – when I hear “And by my hand, I swear, there will never be a last time…” I’m gripped by the sheer audacity, love, and futility of those words.)
The album is almost entirely faithful to the band’s live show, with very few overdubs. Except for the closer, “Bodies,” and it hurts to say that the song suffers for it. The demo was only guitar/voice for the first three minutes, and after that had the same airborne quality as “Somebody Saved” (appropriate – the beauty of its vision caused me to reconsider the idea of heaven, which I had abandoned; I have, since hearing the demo, gained new theological langauge and understanding that 1) makes the concept consonant with the scientific parts of my worldview, 2) refutes the theology of the song, and 3) has only increased its meaning to me!).
BLS/MTY has always been at their strongest when their intensity/frustration is heard as part of a process, a working-through towards personal and relational wholeness (at least, less brokenness than at the start). And their strongest music is some of the most important to me, ever.
But in terms of potential compared to realization, Graced By Silence is a dissapointment. I’ve copped to the fact that my standards are incredibly high. These artists are capable of such stunning work as You Make Your Own Self Fall, “Somebody Saved,” and the “Bodies” demo. Then to release a finished work that contains “Hard To Fight It,” I can’t help but feel that most of Graced By Silence lacks the depth and intentionality that could have made it great.