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

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.


  1. It seems like we’ve been talking a lot about musical expectations a lot over here at MFR, and also with The Monthly Noose. It’s an interesting theme, and it raised a few interesting questions.

    First, do our experiences with certain artists make us biased to new material? Second, should it?

    The answer to the first questions is, without a doubt, “yes.” I can’t imagine an artist’s prior work NOT affecting one’s view on their newer work.

    However, it’s hard to tell whether one should consciously stack newer works next to older works as Howie has done here, or whether we ought to treat the newer work as a “work in itself.”

    I guess to me, this is almost a moot point, since it’s impossible NOT to contrast and compare even a little…

    Howie has known great BLS/MTY, and even though their current work is satisfactory as an album, he remains disappointed in it because he still clings to albums past.

    Is this fair to the album, or to Howie? Is there something in regards to MTY’s intent that Howie doesn’t know, but, if he did know, would change his perception of the album?

    One answer to this problem of comparing works might be to go on and compare it (since it is inevitable), but not to blow the comparison out of proportion. As we saw in the last issue of The Monthly Noose (, you can compare a newer work with an older work and concede that while it might not be as good, it’s still not necessarily TERRIBLE.

    But Howie definitely implies this, when he calls the new work decent enough in itself, but not “Great,” the value he sees in “You Make Your Own Self Fall.”

  2. Love your critique. I agree, “yes” we have expectations that influence our experience of new material. “Should” is maybe irrelevant, because it happens no matter what… perhaps “how” we let expectations affect us is a better question?

    A “work in itself” is a pretty slippery concept anyway – every aesthetic work is located in a cultural context that gives it meaning.

    “…dissapponted in it because he still clings to albums past.” Not exactly (at least I think not). I think, especially when it comes to some of the lyrics/melodies, that the new record is not as strong as MTY’s other work, based on a broad set of aesthetic sensibilities that 99% of us would recognize as valid.

    Take rhymes. Some of the lyrics on GBS are at pains to rhyme, where none of those on YMYOSF feel forced in that way. Metaphor; several songs on the new album are confused, mixing images around with no apparent meaning, while in previous work Russ’ lyrics for a given song all pointed in the same direction, putting their force behind one theme. Example A, “Hard to Fight It,” – in the chorus we are both fighting (destructive) and writing (creative) the same urge, AND it rhymes unnecessarily! You can try to parse it if you like; based on my listening, and my knowledge of the band and their previous work, I don’t find this an ascension to a new level of complexity – I find it weak.

    “Is there something in regards to MTY’s intent…”, of course! Learning anything about how the album came to be would “change my perception,” and almost surely would add to my appreciation for it. Even if I would make different choices, learning why MTY chose the way they did would help me understand (and probably love) their work. What I feel (based on YMYOSF is that there could have been more intentionality behind the choices that were made.

    “But Howie definitely implies this…” – I do not imply or claim that the new record is “TERRIBLE”! To hold them together and find one wanting is no sin – just an aesthetic claim (one I think I can back up). I like it well enough, I’m going to buy it (maybe I should have included that in the original post?).

  3. Real quick! I didn’t mean that I thought you implied that their work is terrible! I meant that you implied that you are not saying the album is a bad album, but that it’s not as great as their previous work!

    “you can compare a newer work with an older work and concede that while it might not be as good, it’s still not necessarily TERRIBLE.”

    See? You concede that it’s not as good as the older album, but not awful! That’s what I meant that you implied!


  4. Ahh, the beautiful internet, with its damnable vagueness regarding tone and emphasis.

    In a move that might either damage OR help my case, I give you the following from Pitchfork’s “worst records of 2005.” They, also, are not all about the mixed metaphors.

    “R. Kelly: “Sex Weed”
    Some of your jaws are agape right now. An R. Kelly track on a worst-of-2005 list that’s not “Trapped in the Closet”? But “Trapped in the Closet” was so spectacularly weird, and such a bizarre cultural oddity that, even if only as a curiosity, it was completely fascinating and engrossing. “Sex Weed”? Not so much. Stretching the metaphor to its breaking point and beyond, Kells sings, “Girl, you got that sex weed/ I just want to hit it all the time.” Not only is this just dumb, but half of these supposed double-entendres are so desperately reaching, it frustrates to no end. “Just one look at you, I’ve got contact/ Can I get a pull of that/ Girl, your shit is the chronic/ ‘Cause I can tell by the way you roll it up/ Make a playa wanna smoke it up.” How is he gonna smoke it up? It doesn’t even make sense!”

  5. Aside from whether he is talented or not, I hate the crap out of R. Kelly’s music. It’s base, stupid, chauvinistic, cliche, ego-centric, stupid, unnecessarily vulgar, stupid, and a really bad example of R&B. And it’s stupid. Plus he pees on underage girls (AT LEAST WAIT TIL THEY’RE OLD ENOUGH TO BE PEED ON, and THEN FILM IT!)

    But it’s fun to dance to!

  6. From Matt Taibbi’s review of Tom Friedman’s “The World Is Flat”

    ‘I stomped off, went through security, bought a Cinnabon, and glumly sat at the back of the B line, waiting to be herded on board so that I could hunt for space in the overhead bins.’

    Forget the Cinnabon. Name me a herd animal that hunts. Name me one.

    This would be a small thing were it not for the overall pattern. Thomas Friedman does not get these things right even by accident. It’s not that he occasionally screws up and fails to make his metaphors and images agree. It’s that he always screws it up. He has an anti-ear, and it’s absolutely infallible; he is a Joyce or a Flaubert in reverse, incapable of rendering even the smallest details without genius. The difference between Friedman and an ordinary bad writer is that an ordinary bad writer will, say, call some businessman a shark and have him say some tired, uninspired piece of dialogue: Friedman will have him spout it. And that’s guaranteed, every single time. He never misses.”

    The point; here is more support for my assertion in a broadly-shared aesthetic in which mixed metaphors are poor art.

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