It’s been nearly five years since mainstay rockers, The Classic Crime has put out new material. For avid fans of the band, it was an interminable wait. We can rejoice because the hiatus is over and we have a new album from one of the few remaining bands from the pop/rock, Tooth & Nail era. So the question lingers in the air – was the wait worth it? Here’s why it’s a frustrating “no.”
After a forty second intro track, How To Be Human kicks off with their first and for obvious reasons, controversial single. Holy Water is a catchy song that sounds like it would be on their third LP, Vagabonds. Fans can argue forever on theology, but the song is a good first track with its upbeat verses and seamless transitions into a chorus that can remain in your head long after the song ends. Not Done With You Yet, another single rears after Holy Water. The message of the song is encouraging and inviting, but musically, it’s not really interesting until the end when vocalist Matt McDonald nearly returns to his Silver Cord-esque scream.
Ghost is a forgettable track for the same reason that too many songs on the album are; it’s slow and doesn’t go anywhere. TCC has always done slow songs on their albums tremendously well. Their debut featured, Headlights, Silver Cord had R&R, Vagabonds had My Name, and Phoenix had Dead Rose. So it’s strange to see so many slow songs that are, lacking a better word, boring.
Following Ghost, is another slow and laid back song that doesn’t fit the “forgettable” category. The lyrics are reminiscent of old school Classic Crime. A constant driving beat from the drums keep the song moving at a fast enough pace, and ambient guitar and keys create an atmosphere of reflection and thoughtfulness. It’s only a shame that it was paired with Ghost. Driftwood is good by its own merit, but pairing it with another slower song, the album lags at this point despite Driftwood’s well executed sound.
Bringing us to the best song on the album, Wonder lifts the middle section with a beautiful track. The song speaks of getting caught up in theology and fact finding with Christianity, all the while losing sight of the “wonder” of God. It’s a rare enough topic but one that plagues many people given the times lately. Sadly, the middle of the album sags afterwards. Spare Time is yet another mellow track going relatively nowhere. At this point in the album, you have to ask yourself if they’ve just gotten bored of rock. The humdrum tracks that anchors the album cause McDonald’s vocals to fade into the background. With such a distinctive voice that shines with both range and harshness in yells and screams, we don’t see the best of him through the album. Shades Of Green while being upbeat, is a filler track. The endless repeated chorus gets old quick and again, doesn’t go anywhere.
Finally, the latter half of the album is lifted similarly as Wonder rose the middle. More, is a song that reminds the listener of The Silver Cord era. We finally hear heaviness and Matt McDonald’s signature scream. The Third Way is another rocky song with a chorus that evokes head bobbing and singing at the top of your lungs in the car.
This may sound odd, but a great track is Hold On Let Go. The song clocks under two minutes, and is almost entirely acoustic guitar. The only line spoken in the song is the title itself, repeated and repeated. It can be incredibly meaningful to anyone. A meaning most will take from it is, hold on to your beliefs, and let go of everything else. It’s a quick and deep song that stays with the listener. Black & White closes the album with an endearing line in the chorus: “Savior, save me.” Then in the midst of the mellowness, McDonald screams harder than we’ve ever heard before. “Am I alone?” It catches our immediate attention but soon dies after, closing the album in a myriad of strings. It would have been nice to hear more of that passion and intensity throughout the album rather than just in the last minute.
So where does this leave us? The pros to the album is in the production and thoughtful lyrics. The production is top notch, with all the proper amounts of volume levels, bass, treble, and all that good stuff. The lyrics are never pointless or just put on a song because they needed words. McDonald has put out his most impressive lyrics in the history of TCC. However this brings on the cons of the album. Lyrics lose their value if over half the songs on the album are beyond boring and rather lazy. The listener loses sight of lyrics and grows in frustration with the repeated mellow songs with rare escapes to a better sound not seen too much on How To Be Human.
Fans are still bound to love this album, although probably just because their favorite band is back, not because the album is actually that good. It’s great to see the band is still kicking. When it comes to the mid 2000’s era of Tooth & Nail rock bands, The Classic Crime is one of the few remaining sparks lingering in the fire. Unfortunately, this album is largely forgettable with a few great moments.