The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die
Release Date: September 25, 2015
For me the word Emo was initially something terrible. I was into Ska and Punk and that was it. Then I went to see The Juliana Theory open for Sense Field. they closed with “Constellation” and I was blown away by the emotional roller coaster and power contained within that song. Over the next 5 years plus Emo and I had a great love relationship. It lasted up until the term was completely corrupted in 2002 (see every annoying pop rock band being called emo).
Fast forward to now. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die (TWIABP)’s Wikipedia page identifies them as “flagbearers for the 2010s emo revival”. You would think I would have learned my lesson from the first time I wrote the term Emo off, but I immediately scoffed TWIABP as something stupidly poppy. I then proceeded to discover and love bands like The Obsessives, Into It. Over It., Spraynard, and Modern Baseball. Yet, somehow I could not get over my prejudice against TWIABP. Even when I gave Whenever, If Ever a cursory listen I just couldn’t get over my prejudice against something Wikipedia said. Shame on me. If you have written them off in the same way, shame on you.
After seeing Harmlessness get more hype than anyone’s money could buy I decided to give TWIABP another chance. What I discovered is a band that can only be described Godspeed! You Black Emperor (GSYBE)’s punk rock child. TWIABP has mastered the crescendo/decrescendo roller coaster in a way that only the aforementioned post-rock masters have previously. Harmlessness takes the expansive movements of Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and condenses them down into 5 minute rock songs. Take for example the moving “January 10th, 2014” (which I have listened to like a teenager who just discovered their first pop song) over the course of 5 minutes it takes you through a tour of the following and then some The Graduate, The Juliana Theory, Ester Drang, Arcade Fire, Queen, Elliott, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Brand New. That’s just one song.
The difficult for me in reviewing this album is that it exists as a series of movements instead of as full tracks. “I Can Be Afraid of Anything” features a moment that is a favorite of mine, closing with dual vocals that remind me of Brandtson at their finest. Another highlight is the amazing use of stop/start dynamics and stand-alone vocals in "Rage Against the Dying Of the Light". "We Need More Skulls" shows the bands singer channeling his inner Billy Corgan with a perfect whine/sneer delivery.
This band has roughly 9 members (they claim to use a revolving door type method of band membership). In the videos I’ve seen while obsessively searching for them on YouTube I’ve seen them use guitars (at least 3), violin, trumpet, keyboards, bass, drums, percussion, and members just singing. It’s crazy to think that something this massively orchestrated can come from a collection of so many members, but nothing is lost in the mix. These songs are massive in their scope and in their execution. If there is on complaint in listening to Harmlessness it’s that the songs tend to be a bit formulaic in how they are constantly starting small and then building into something massive. It’s a bit like riding the same really awesome roller coaster over and over again, but one where the last hill is the biggest and best. That’s not to say it’s not an amazing roller coaster, but it does get a little repetitive after listening to the album 15 times in a row. Not that I’ve done that or anything…
I want to return to the aforementioned song “January 10th, 2014”. From a lyrical perspective, I think it highlights one of the scariest, but most empowering things in punk rock. The song tells the (supposedly true) story of a Mexican woman who goes and takes matters in her own hands in the form of taking the lives of those who hurt others. It closes with the line “make evil afraid of evils shadow.” While on one hand the reasons behind this type of commando justice are apparent, the question begs as to when the cycle stops. Is this endorsement only perpetuating the cycle of injustice and evil in the world, or is this a situation where this can be considered acceptable? It’s definite food for thought.
I could go on and on about the positives of listening to Harmlessness for days on end, but honestly every minute spent reading this review is taking you away from going and discovering this gem for yourself. This record has all the trappings of a classic (except for the awful album artwork) and now I understand why The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die are worthy of being called flagbearers.
Reviewed by: Rob 1340