Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate)

You Will Eventually Be Forgotten

Written by: TL on 28/08/2014 17:20:12

As most passionate music fans, I consider myself a person of relatively eclectic taste, and while I'm well aware that you could probably come up with a small handful of umbrella terms that together would overlap the mainstay of things I tend to like, I guess part of me takes a certain pride in seeking out the records and bands that merit themselves by standing apart from their genre of origin in some novel way. With that said though, my dive into the music scene began during the time when the emo term was finding world wide definition, and consequently I often feel a sort of obligation towards the genre, like I must at some time get into those of its staple bands that I haven't yet gotten to know intimately. It's with that in mind that I've approached Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) and the new LP "You Will Eventually Be Forgotten", which is is only the band's second album despite having existed since 2006, having instead released a plethora of splits with various like-minded bands from the American underground scene.

The band is a duo, consisting of husband and wife Keith and Cathy Latinen, the former of whom is the man behind the emo label Count Your Lucky Stars, which is widely known for having signed a whole bunch of bands that between them have pretty much shaped the sound of the so-called "mid-west emo revival". The effect being that you'd be excused if you have a hard time telling them apart, giving the obvious influence from the likes of Mineral and American Football that thoroughly permeate them all, from Joie De Vivre over Pswingset, to Into It. Over It., Football, Etc. and indeed the Latinens' own band. It's a doctrine that prescribes a sound of two clean, organic-sounding guitars meandering moodily through story-driven progressions, sometimes joining in chords that sounds like seconds ticking off a clock and otherwise interweaving with a noodling scale each. Mopey vocal work is also obligatory, and Keith delivers by sounding like a shoe-gazing, world-weary Chris Conley, as he recites lyrics that feel like a sort of anti-poetry in their minimalistic, narrative style.

If you sense a cynical tone in my description, it's because the good intentions with which I approach the album are thwarted all too soon when being bogged down in the Latinens' complete disinterest when it comes to song structure, and the absence of ambition when it comes to doing anything of novelty with the genre. I'm only halfway through the two minute opener "Ribbon" before I find myself obsessing over the neglected potential for interplay between the melody and a certain car crash lyric, but I never finish the thought, because the specific frustration is relieved by a persistent overall one: Empire! Empire!'s take on the emo genre is completely frozen in time, and seemingly completely self-restrained to the same tempo and tonality for the eleven tracks that make up the new album.

There are exceptions of course, as "A Keepsake" rouses the ear via some guest vocals from Braid's Bob Nanna, and a bit of trumpeting towards the end, while "Things Not Worth Fixing" makes an impression as well, though mostly via being depressingly relevant to me through the lyrics "I was not a model employee. I was frequently late. Felt my education made me overqualified". Does the relatability not border on the banal though? "The Promise That Life Can Go On No Matter How Bad Our Losses" is better then, telling an actually touching story about counting down to New Year's with you lover over the phone, wondering if touring life is worth it. The problem is that it arrives at the very end of the album, and ends without repetition, almost as if the subject matter is perceived as too pure to be wallowed in. Which is ironic on an album of the most wallowing musical style of them all.

These exceptions are few and far in between though, facing me once more with a dilemma that I'm all too good at forgetting: Either I'm not the emo I think I am, finding myself consistently unable to appreciate the essential Count Your Lucky Stars band and its timeless rehashing of old Mineral elements, or else the traditionality of Empire! Empire! and bands of their ilk is getting out of hand, to the point where fans blindly appreciate them for the E-label, despite the far-reaching detours taken from the merits of actually memorable composing. The only thing I know for sure is that I don't think we need any more stoically dogmatic records like these, because we'll simply remain better off revisiting trusty milestones from bands that actually used the genre as a launch point for livelier exploration, such as Jimmy Eat World or Death Cab For Cutie - Or even just the influential classics from either Mineral or perhaps Kid Brother Collective? So while it pains me to send this message towards a band and a label that I sympathise with on many occasions, I think we're going to need some new ambition up in here real soon. As for the album, regrettably, it will imminently be forgotten.

Download: A Keepsake, Things Not Worth Fixing, The Promise That Life Can Go On No Matter How Bad Our Losses
For The Fans Of: Joie De Vivre; Football, Etc; American Football
Listen: facebook.com/empireempireiwasalonelyestate

Release date 19.08.2014
Count Your Lucky Stars / Topshelf Records

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