Watch Out!

Written by: PP on 14/04/2010 03:30:43

"We are not the kids we used to be, stop wishing for yesterday" screamed Wade & George on "Old Crows", the opening track on the fourth Alexisonfire album "Old Crows / Young Cardinals" last summer. But when you have two albums like "Alexisonfire" and "Watch Out!" in your back catalogue, can you blame the fans for wishing it was yesterday? For hoping they could re-live Alexisonfire on their "Watch Out!" tour (look at that setlist ffs)? There's no point in debating which of the two albums is better or more seminal than the other because they're both bloody incredible and among the best screamo / post-hardcore hybrid albums ever released. This review dissects the band's sophomore album, Dallas Green's breakthrough album because of the emphasis on his breathtaking clean vocals, and if you're nice to me, I may review the debut at some point as well.

If you've ever been to an Alexisonfire show, you must have heard the kids at the front shouting "play Accidents" near the front rows. That's because the opener to "Watch Out!" is a contender for the best Alexisonfire song written to date (though I admit, the field is very crowded). Melodic guitars blaze scales on the background in the vein of the old school screamo / post-hardcore stuff, while lead vocalist George delivers some of his best fierce, razor sharp screaming that could be credited for inventing the descriptor "piercing" in music media. Then you have Dallas Green's brilliant clean wails, pitch-perfect and back-chilling at all times, at the breakthrough moment of his career sounding powerful and dominant in the soundscape, yet curiously innocent and naive of great things to come in the future. Oh and there are even gang shouted cleans echoing in the background!

This is a formula that's repeated throughout the album's 11 songs, with the only variant being the ratio of George's screams to Dallas' cleans in each songs. "Control", for instance, has Dallas at the forefront of the sound, leaving the guitars fading to the back of the soundscape while all focus and the spotlight is placed on Dallas' wail. The following two tracks, "It Was The Fear Of Myself That Made Me Odd" and "Side Walk When She Walks" are a little anonymous despite featuring lots and lots of Dallas, but that's only because they're sandwiched between "Control" and the fantastic "Hey Mama, It's Your Funeral". The latter in particular explodes into breakneck riffs and aggressive screaming, heavily playing on the contrast between the structured and beautiful cleans by Dallas and the chaotic, ear-piercing screams of George, making it one of the best tracks on the record. Lead single "No Transitory" then experiments a little more with drums and rhythm, but again it's the quiet/loud, piercing/beautiful contrast that's in focus here.

Many fans find the odd "Sharks & Danger" and it's spoken-word samples weird, but it's probably the Alexisonfire track with the biggest build up that I can think of. Dallas occasionally delivers a few lines of cleans, then it's time for more noisy effects and quiet guitars (notice the classic quiet/loud dynamic here) and extended vocal lines as if this was an early Thursday song, before George makes an explosive entrance with his screams, and we hear bassist Wade for the first time (I believe) ever contributing as well. It was my favorite Alexisonfire song for a long while, together with the bouncy "That Girl Possessed" that transitions into a high-octane hardcore screamo-punk song. If you've heard the song, you know what I'm talking about.

Oops that almost became a full track-by-track analysis of the record, but not to worry, the remaining songs are all superb as well. "Get Fighted", for instance, should be in your top3 favorite Alexisonfire songs if for nothing else but Dallas' brilliant chorus "So make sure you love like you've never been hurt. And when you dance, dance like there's no one watching you", a catchy motherfucker that's still a part of almost every Alexisonfire setlist. Do you still need more convincing? Most fans of the genre will have heard either this, "Alexisonfire", or both, so really this review is just to allow you guys a place to comment on how awesome this record is, but if for some (unforgivable) reason you haven't got this album yet and like screaming music....I feel sorry for you, because you simply don't know what you're missing out. It speaks volumes that to this date, there still isn't a band who sounds like these guys did in their prime.

Download: Get Fighted, That Girl Possessed, Accidents
For the fans of: The Bled, Vanna, screamo
Listen: Myspace

Release date 29.06.2004
Distort Entertainment / Equal Vision

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