Album: How to Live With a Curse
(Disclaimer: contrary to what some of you all may think of my musical tastes [from all my other reviews], I, like so many of you, am a massive Stavesacre fan. They’ve released 2 of my all time favorite albums in Friction and Absolutes, and have, with “At the Moment”, a song in the all-time greatest songs argument…top 10, no question. I have seen them more times than I can count. I have always loved their originality, to the point where, if you were to start playing a Stavesacre song to anyone who knows them, before Mark even starts singing, you can tell, even if you’ve never heard it before. I love their music, their songwriting, their personalities…everything. It’s a shame that they haven’t gotten a massive record deal yet. And, with that being said…)
I can say up front that this album is, what some may call, a “grower”. It’s not really that great the first time you hear it (in fact, it’s not even that good on the first listen), but, as time goes on and you listen to it more, the more you can like it. I am by no means saying that this is a great album, though. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Upon first listen, I almost couldn’t make it through the album. I don’t know if I just hold them to a higher standard or what (it is quite possible), but I can honestly say that I’ve never been as disappointed by a Stavesacre album upon first listen as I am by this one. I don’t know exactly what it is, so I’ll let you in on some of my thoughts as I listened to this.
“If Mark wasn’t singing, I would have no idea this was Stavesacre.” One thing I’ve always loved about Stavesacre is that every single member is so extremely talented that, not only are their live shows great, but they always manage to carry that talent over to their recordings. Aside from 1 or 2 places on this album, it could really be anyone playing on this, with Mark singing. Sam is such an amazing drummer, but I don’t hear it on this album. Dirk is a unique bassist, but, aside from a couple places, you can’t really tell he’s that great. Ever since Ryan joined, I’ve loved what he’s brought to the table (different from Jeff, but still good), but they could’ve grabbed any guitarist from any emo band to do what he’s doing on this album. And Mark…well…on a couple songs (“Fear and Love” and “You Made it Look So Easy” being the most obvious culprits) he sounds whiny.
“If I didn’t know any better, I would think that they’re trying too hard to get a major label to notice them and cash in on the already overdone emo market.” Here’s the sad thing…I don’t know any better. That’s really what the majority of this album sounds like. There’s really not much that separates this release from a lot of what’s already out there. I could see this coming for a while, and just hoped I was wrong. As much as I like Speakeasy, that was really the first step in that direction, and it continued with Stavesacre. “Witch Trial” was more along the lines of Absolutes, but the rest of the album took them one step closer to emo. When I heard the Bull Meets Fighter EP, I was actually pretty excited when I heard the title track. A little harder and nastier than the majority of Stavesacre, and, of course, it had that wicked guitar breakdown in the middle. I was hoping that momentum would carry over to this album, but, sadly, it didn’t.
And now, my final, and, possibly saddest thought…
“It sounds like a group of high school/college kids really into today’s emo got a hold of Speakeasy and Stavesacre and have now made a more watered-down, more radio-friendly version of those two albums.” That is a sad thought to me, but it doesn’t make it any less true. It doesn’t sound like Stavesacre…it sounds like a band with limited exposure trying to be Stavesacre. I had always thought that they too unique to ever be copied, or too unique to ever sound like anyone else, and now, finally, I am proven wrong…and I hang my head and hope this will pass.
Re-read all that. I just did.
It really sounds like I hate this album. That’s not really it. I did at first, but, as it turns out, my hatred isn’t hatred at all…it’s disappointment. As I sit here listening to it yet again right now, I’m still disappointed that they didn’t put out something better, but it’s still a pretty good album, with a couple of tracks (most notably “The Trouble With Being Born” and “Future History of the Broken Hearted”) being a bit more aggressive and more Stavesacre-esque than the rest of it.
In short, throw your preconceived notions of what you think this album will sound like out the window before you listen to it, and then listen to it with an open mind. You’ll like it better. And, as I said at the top of this review, it’s a grower. I’m currently on my 8th listen, and I’m liking it much better now than I have the previous 7 times. Give it time and attention (like a new puppy), and you’ll find that you’ll like it more an more with every listen.
Rating: First listen – 4.7
Eighth listen – 7.2
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