I, No Longer

Written by: TL on 06/11/2015 15:24:42

From a distance, the American punk rock scene can seem like a thinly spread, yet tightly knit community, which is more indiscriminate than you would think, in including many different types of authentic, relatable guitar rock. And for years, that scene has consistently been a hotbed for bands showcasing the potential, not just for making great punk records, but sometimes just for making great records period. The Menzingers, Red City Radio, Restorations, The Hotelier and Captain, We're Sinking are some of the examples from recent years, and their rise to more widespread fame within the international scene has helped make curious fans keep a vigilant eye open, looking out for whoever is next to produce something similarly extraordinary. And this year, the best bids for who those bands are, so far are Philadelphia's Beach Slang and Buffalo's Pentimento.

Granted, among those in the know, some may still feel beholden to Pentimento's more gravelly, self-titled 2013 debut, and that's their prerogative. But in most technical aspects, the group has improved themselves on the new "I, No Longer", to the point where it almost feels a bit awkward to listen back to the debut and hear frontman Jeremiah Pauly force roughness into his vocals (in likely imitation of Polar Bear Club's Jimmy Stadt), when his voice - as clearly heard on the new album - is more suited for passionate melodious singing in the vein of Dashboard Confessional's Chris Carrabba.

Other than the cleaner and more melodious vocals, however, Pentimento have not changed their approach all that much, except for cleaning up the production and tightening up the songwriting. In that sense "I, No Longer" continues the development started on 2013's "Inside The Sea" EP, on which the band began down a more anthemic, emo-rock-ish road. Their two guitars ring with the tones of great American romanticism, often streaking ahead with excited, sunny melodies (think Saves The Day), which are in stark contrast to Pauly's frustrated and regretful lyricism. These are built up in compositions that should appeal to anyone who's ever had a smirk on their face while listening to Taking Back Sunday, and noticing that band once more glueing a separate anthemic chorus onto the backend of a song, just as they have done so many times with great success.

It's the same sense of wide-eyed sentimental turmoil that makes particularly the first half of "I, No Longer" a great listen, and a listen that makes you happy to hear that emo rock is alive and potent. It hits you right off the bat with the solemn intro "Small Talk For Strangers", an opener that quickly envelops you in the bombastic, waltzing atmosphere, while commencing a Side A to the album that is positively ripe with excellent songs. "My Solution Is In The Lake", "Sink Or Swim" and "Stuck Forever" all measure up as some of the band's best songs to date, with angst-ridden and cathartic hook lines almost tripping over each other to burn themselves into your consciousness. "Sink Or Swim", however, is perhaps the best at encapsulating Pentimento's most unique aspect, namely their marriage of lively, energetic guitar shenanigans in the background, to the vocals aggrandizing the kind of somewhat embittered wallowing, that most have felt prone to when life has felt particularly unfair.

If that description does not sound exclusively positive, it's because you could argue that the lyrics lack some of the depth and perspective of contemporaries like The Hotelier or even The Wonder Years. The words here feel a bit stuck between tearing down your surroundings and tearing down yourself, and could do with some rays of hope or just, well, perspective - Yet as mentioned, most people have probably been there, so it is far from impossible to relate.

As good as the first half of the album is, though, it does make it more clearly apparent that Pentimento still has room to improve when it comes to displaying diversity from their more typical kind of songs. The mellower section of the album instigated by the interlude "Again" and explored on "Gateway" and "Tiger Eye", feels a bit trivial compared to what came before, and although "Slow But Sure" and "No Matter What" brings the catchy energy back in on another pair of solid songs, you can't help but feel a bit like the band simply repeated the same formula from earlier with only nearly as good results.

Making note of this, it is clear that Pentimento has yet to leap fully up into the hallowed halls of the bands that have the air around them that they can do no wrong. These guys are still human, and they are still improving on their expression and exploring its reach, with the occasional duds that mostly entails. But that should not by any means deter you from checking them out already now, because as mentioned, their shortcomings are only so noticeable because the best songs on "I, No Longer" are so good. And considering that there are more catchy and engaging songs on the album than not, as well as the fact that the band has successfully defined a sound that will appeal to many, yet does not sound fully like any other single band, "I, No Longer" still figures as one of the most recommendable listens of the year, and an absolute must-hear if you consider yourself a fan of emotional (punk) rock.


Download: Sink Or Swim, Stuck Forever, My Solution Is In The Lake
For The Fans Of: Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional, The Wonder Years, Saves The Day, The Hotelier

Release date 23.10.2015
Bad Timing Records

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