We Love The Underground's debut release, The Day The Devil Fooled The World, surprised me with its variety and passion. Singer/songwriter/guitarist, Brad Cox, laid out a tapestry of audible goodies for us that changed mood and tone from song to song. Thus, when Mouthful Of Graffiti arrived on my doorstep I had my doubts as to whether this sophomore release could hold up to the merits of the first. Could emotionally rousing songs such as “The Sharper Your Love”, “Writing On Broken Mirrors”, and “The Ties”, as well as the fist-pumping anthem of “Let No Hand Hold Us Down”, be beat by this new batch of tunes? I wasted no time finding out, snatching up the disc and hitting the road to spend some quality time.
Unlike the debut album, which is composed of a variety of songs that drift back and forth between tones and moods, Mouthful Of Graffiti seems to be grouped into something of an A-Side and B-Side. The A-Side is filled with heavier tracks full of powerful drumming, thick guitar riffs, and insanely catchy choruses. Songs such as the opener, “Fits Of Rage”, “This Is A Warning”, and the behemoth of “Come, Destroyer!” lay waste to the unsuspecting listener. The use of synthesized guitars and keys add a sinister atmosphere and depth to that final mention, making me feel as though it would be a perfect fit for end of the world movie soundtracks. The B-Side of the album cuts back the heaviness in favor of flavor. The beginning of the second half consists of great moody songs before going into the final two tracks entitled “Take Me” and “Eclipse”. The former harnesses the feel of a bluesy 1950's tune, drawing the vocals back in the mix and compressing them. Throw in an obvious punk-rock attitude and style with risque lyrics and you have a pleasantly unique song. The final song of the album begins with a meaty riff before it slides into a jazzy, lounge music vibe. It relaxes the listener wonderfully, allowing them to wind down from the musical adventure they've embarked upon and simply be carried by the soaring harmonized vocal melodies and horns.
When I reviewed The Day The Devil Fooled The World, I said that Brad Cox had a talent for writing great songs. The new record shows me that I wasn't wrong in the slightest, but it also shows me that he has a penchant for penning anthems to reach out to the deserted, the discouraged, the underdogs. On the previous record, we heard “Let No Hand Hold Us Down”, which called for people to rise up against injustice and make their voices heard. Here we find two outstanding enlivening tracks, “The Isolationist/So Alone” and “We Light The Way”. The latter is a call to arms for those who have been discarded by society, boasting that they are “the light” that was thrown away and can amount to something great if they use that fire birthed from their dismissal to their advantage. It's rallying cries and use of the occasional harsh vocal (which is new for this band) make it captivating! Meanwhile, the former song is my favorite on the record, full of passion and power. The message is so strong and the song so incredibly catchy that it could easily overshadow any modern radio hit – and I hope it's given the chance. The second half of the song takes me back to memories of listening to Guns N' Roses epic “Coma”. While certainly not copying the rhythm of the verses at the end of that song, I get the same vibe from both – a frantic verbal stream of thought that carries us quickly along to the end. While that may not sound like it, the frantic moment is comforting.
It would be too hasty for me to say which album I think is better, but I must admit that the freshness in listening to the new album gives it the edge for me at the moment. Both records are filled with great songs, fantastic melodies and hooks, and a great deal of diversity – though the recent release groups that diversity into tighter clumps than the debut chose to do. Brad Cox continues to impress me with his songwriting abilities and the intensity he instills in each moment that's been captured, such that even the more relaxed moments are filled with emotion. We Love The Underground is undoubtedly one of the best hard rock bands to emerge in the last few years and Mouthful Of Graffiti showcases exactly why that is.
Skitzo Calypso enticed me. I had seen them open at a show I recently attended and found their tenacity, especially that of their lead singer, to be appealing. Though he was faced with a lukewarm audience, he performed with all the energy he possessed. Returning home, I investigated their music more and discovered a treasure trove of great songs, as well as the knowledge of a solo project by that tenacious frontman, Brad Cox. We Love The Underground is his vision, which combines various musical styles into songs that are not only interesting, but catchy as well! I've let the album grow on me over the last two weeks and I'm thrilled to share with you what I've found.
In a pre-release statement, Cox said that the album title refers to how media and marketing infiltrate our day-to-day lives. “It doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of time to synthesize down our true emotions and thoughts,” he said, “without being interrupted with false ideologies, hope, agenda, propaganda and group think. The way our society is constructed doesn’t allow for a lot of soul searching, which is what I wanted to do on this record.” The album artwork does a wonderful job of tapping into this idea, displaying a present-day interpretation of Lady Liberty transformed from a symbol of freedom to an over-privileged teenager, neglectful of her people, standing on a modern foundation of gossip and materialism. As vivid as this statement is, and as much as I agree with the sentiment, the music is why we're really here. And for good reason!
The Day The Devil Fooled The World is packed to the brim with track after track that pulls you in and refuses to let go. While admittedly, I found the opener, “Afire”, to fall short of greatness, the rest of the album makes up for it in spades. The album takes off in a splendid way with the second track, “The Sharper Your Love”. Starting off small, it grows to epic proportions through the use of orchestral strings and scratch guitar, swelling into a brilliant chorus and beautiful solo. No song faulters from here to the end, though the style adjusts to the mood. Soon we find ourselves listening to a pop-induced, upbeat tune entitled, “Back To The Cold War”, which could have found a home just as easily on The Darkness' second album. Later on the record, we encounter “Let No Hand Hold Us Down”, a truly empowering powerhouse that fills you with energy and gets your fist slamming against imaginary doors in the air. “The Ties” takes us to the other end of the spectrum, plummeting us to the depths of hopelessness and tragedy, as Cox sings about the lost relationship between himself and his mother. And I can't forget to mention the closing self-titled track, where we're greeted by horns, an electro-funk bass drum, as well as stunning classical Spanish-laced guitar solos. When he starts singing like Guns N' Roses' Axl Rose...well, a listener might not know what to do with themselves!
Brad Cox has a talent for writing great songs. I've been listening to his collaborations with others, as well as his solo project for a few weeks now, and on only a few occasions am I not as awed by the result. But not only is he a great songwriter, but he's a fine musician as well. After seeing Skitzo Calypso, I assumed that he was mainly a rhythm guitar player, which he may be. But here we find several moments of great fretboard finesse, not the least of which is the solo for “The Sharper Your Love”, which is melodically tasteful, but blisteringly fast. However, his main instrument is his voice, which he uses to great effect. I don't know where he grew up, but he possesses an accent that carries into his singing, and I constantly get the feeling that he's British. But what's important about him isn't his accent, but the way he sings. Whether he aims to empower or lament, his voice is filled with energy, as though he's tearing away pieces of himself and handing them out to the listener. The Day The Devil Fooled The World is a jigsaw puzzle of Cox's soul that he's laid out for all to see, and when we take a step back we can see the beauty and tragedy that has colored it.
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