A Lovely Crisis “Back Then” – Long Live Rock

by Michael Stover

People have been saying for years that “Rock is Dead.”  In fact, it’s been said that punk rock died the first time a kid said, “Punk’s not dead.” Well, I’m here to witness to you about the resurrection of post-punk, anthemic rock, at its snarling and raucous best.  Behold, A Lovely Crisis, a band of Guitar Hero-generation rockers from Pittsburgh, who are leading the charge for the return of all things distorted and driving with their self-released debut album, Back Then.

From the four-click count-off on the rambunctious opening title track, to the final, dramatic gunshot ending of closing song, “Vengeance,” Back Then is 11 tracks of maniacally melodic punk rock pleasure.  Blending the guitar-heavy riffs and screaming solos (yes, solos!) of  Matt Leas and Jordan Gable, the relentless and powerful drumming of Nigel Seibert, the bottom-heavy, groove-laden bass guitar of Eric Neff, and Gable’s  growling lead vocal prowess, Back Then is more than an indie debut album.  It is a statement that rock is very much alive and well.

The title track kicks the album off innocently enough, with a simple four count.  Then, the blistering, thunderous drumming of Seibert drives the track full steam ahead through this rocking ode to reminiscing.  Seibert’s playing is part Tre Cool, part Keith Moon, and I find that to be very fitting, since Moon played on the Who’s “Long Live Rock,” and many songs on Back Then could have easily been Green Day hits in another life.  The lyric asks the listener, “Do you remember when?” And, if it is referring to a time when music featured loud, amped-up guitar solos and big gang vocals, then my enthusiastic answer is “YES!”

From there, the Back Then continues to deliver anthem after anthem.  Another stand-out is the bass-driven, call-to-arms rocker, “Generation Not Lost.”  “We are the lost, we are the broken,” say the lyrics, pronouncing the plight of many of today’s youth.  However, there is hope and strength found in numbers: “Tonight we’ll rise, tonight we’ll fight…Walk with us, scream with us.”  The odd-time signature of the chorus makes for an interesting backdrop, and it not only grabs, but it keeps the attention of the listener: Quite an admirable feat for such a youth-driven band of musicians.  The stellar bass playing of Eric Neff rightfully steals the spotlight on several occasions.

Other highlights on Back Then include the would-be slacker theme song, “Golden Mini Van,” with its not-ready-for-radio, yet hysterical lyric about not being able to get the girl, due to the singer’s unfortunate vehicle situation. Matt Leas’ excellent guitar solo and Jordan Gable’s perfect deadpan vocal drives the message of the song home.  That message being, “I don’t give a shi$, cause I’m in a band.”

“Guitar Is Dead” is perhaps my favorite song on the album.  It begins with perfectly panned, stereo lead and harmony guitars that allude to the obvious irony in the title.  The song’s lyric points out the ying-yang of today’s technology-driven society: “I love technology, but it sucks musically.  Technology killed the guitar.  I just wanna rock.”  Gable delivers one of his best solos on this track, once again, proving that guitar is, in fact, not dead.

Back Then was recorded at Cobblesound Studios with Klint Macro, who has worked with Warren Zevon and Christina Aguilera, as well as an impressive list of record and production company clientele.  His work on this debut by A Lovely Crisis envies that of great post-punk album producers Rob Cavallo and Thom Wilson, and it should be celebrated as such.

While A Lovely Crisis is not breaking any new ground with their debut, I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.  What they have managed to do on Back Then, is to remind the listener of a time when rock was king and guitars ruled the kingdom.  This album is for fans of early records by Offspring, Green Day, NOFX, and even some Bosstones fans will appreciate the ska-influence on several numbers.  With not a loop or synth in sight, A Lovely Crisis have surely accomplished what they aspired to in the chorus lyric of “Guitar Is Dead:” “I wanna make rock big again,” and they have.

For more, visit www.alovelycrisis.com

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