Deep and profound experiences of emotion has often served as the catalyst for the production of countless sorts of art and expression; namely - rock music. Nowhere is this more obvious than within the “emo” subgenre, literally named for its characterization as emotive rock. Chicago’s own, A Carnage in the Lovetrees, exemplifies all that it means to be an “emo” band.
The band’s passion is palpable on their debut release Modern Life. Chock full of sentiment and dripping with angst, the album speaks to the many complex and heavy troubles of… well, modern life. Poetic, earnest lyricism is done justice by an incredibly heartfelt, nearly heartbreaking delivery. Vocalist Joshua Young’s is fittingly volatile. One moment he’s distressed, yearning for listeners to understand the depth of his hurt. The next moment he’s screaming, releasing anxieties without a single inhibition holding him back.
Such a delivery of course, could only be paired with an equally fervent instrumental performance. A dark cloud lays over the entire release, crafting the album’s uniquely despondent aesthetic. Under this cloud wailing guitars meet a thumping rhythm section to frequently create giant and intense waves of sound. These are the moments in which Modern Life is meant to be turned up to full volume and FELT throughout the listener’s entire body.
It’s hard to believe that such a poignant and moving album is merely the first release from A Carnage in the Lovetrees. The band has proven themselves as more than capable of creating an an touching album designed specifically to speak to those living a modern life. Featuring grand swaths of emotion and showcasing the group’s incredible musicianship, the album leaves listeners excited to see more from A Carnage in the Lovetrees.
A carnage; otherwise known as a mass murder, slaughter, massacre. Aptly named new band A Carnage in the Lovetrees, butchered their first attempt at a rock album - Modern Life.
As the cliche yet vague album title suggests: the record is riddled with trope-worthy existential-esq and over-poeticized lyricism. Sentence fragment song titles solidify the band’s standing as a tried and true emo band, joining the ranks of La Dispute, Say Anything, Into It. Over It. and the like. Obviously inspired by such artists, the band simply seems to be shooting for something they just can’t quite execute. The unfortunate result instead, is that their music comes off as simply banal.
While the instrumentals to the album aren’t nearly as bad as its’ lyricism, there is still simply nothing special about it. In typical “punk” fashion, shredding guitars dominate as punching percussion drives the majority of songs. Joshua Young, the band’s vocalist, delivers a good portion of the tired lyrical tropes via shouting rather than singing in any sort of melodic fashion. These components come together to make the quintessential, vague rock album, nothing more and nothing less. Mediocrity at its finest.
SHADE & THE BLACK HAT REVIEWS
Let’s get this out of the way: Their name is ridiculous, but being that it is taken Richard Greenfield’s collection of poetry, A Carnage in the Lovetrees (University of California Press 2003), we are gonna let it slide. Modern Life is a record about a boy who believes he’s a robot. The lyrics resonate with each other, echo, harmonize, and build a narrative, offering different versions of a events, POVs, and even offers an advertisement for robot-boys: “$599, get ‘em why they last! We’ll ship it for free.” In 2013, who doesn’t want a record about late-capitalism and the consumeristic nature of our everyday mundanity? This sounds extremely boring in terms of content. But, it’s hard to deny that I’m a sucker for bands bring their own interpretation to late 90s-early 00s emo. The record feels like a call back to Pedro the Lion, Jealous Sound, and early Jimmy Eat World, but there’s a density and almost literative quality that produces its own beast. There are the dual drums of Milemarker (and that one song on Clarity), the gang vocals of every pop-punk band, the Hold Steady, and basically everyone in emo right now. This may seem overstuffed, and maybe it is, but the point of the instrumentation is to build on this rapidly deteriorating narrative. A crescendo of the songs follows the plot. Throughout the record, we are pulled back to the artifice of the story: they sing, “In this modern life, everybody is…” They’re reminding us this is a story. I’m not sure how many times this line is uttered, but it’s relentless.
13 songs. With songs as short as 45 seconds and as long as 7 minutes (though some could be relegated to the role of “filler,” in ushering along the narrative), there is trajectory, need, and texture that makes these “filler” feel less like footnotes, and more like vignettes pushing us through. What’s most striking about these 13 songs is the band’s ability to put a hook over the noise, while still maintaining the trajectory of the story. The problem with most concept records is the way artists hamstring songs to fit their narrative, but A Carnage in the Lovetrees manages to avoid this.
It’s easy to brush off bands of this ilk as pretentious or overshooting an idea. But let’s back up for a minute and give credit to bands who take the chance on their debut to shoot for the moon. Fuck the mentality to question artists attempts to push past the simple ten-songs-about-breakups-or-spiritual, and try to do something different. We should let bands fail on their own. I look at music writing as an open door, and to be honest, when someone sent me this record, I rolled my eyes so hard the lights went out. But I gave it a listen, with an open mind, and I’m glad I did. The record stuck with me, it’s still with me. I keep singing, “Jeremy, Oh Jeremy,” outloud as I make coffee. I keep waiting for the moment when I put on Criminal Minds and they have to defuse a bomb and I can sing “Cut the Red One!” to the TV screen.
I know this might be irrelevant in a review about a record, but I can’t help but ask, is it? Music shapes our lives and for me, I want records that affect me. And whatever my preconceived notions about some new band with the audacity to make a long-ass concept record about robots and consumerism, those were shed about ten seconds into the second track.
I look forward to actually catching them live and seeing what they do, though it’s hard to image they could recreate this…then again, I expected something underwhelming and pretentious, and they delivered something surprising and engaging. So, I guess I’ll have to drag myself out of bed and see them when they roll through. And, yeah, I’ll the the one yelling along, “Cut the Red One!”
What is it with you emos?
We have enough concept records to build a shine to whatever 70s rock band your dad says is the best band of all time. Yet these emos keep trying to do what no one can ever do well.
The problem with concept records is that they’re hamstrung by the idea thus making a perfectly crafted record impossible, because the freedom required to make art is not there. If you can’t tell, concept records bore me as much as emo. And while this is clearly a shitty disposition to have since I’m reviewing this record…I’ll let you know that I requested it. Because…well. It’s good.
Not life changing good, but a solid rock record. Its shortcomings lie in the box they created by making this thing a concept record, but at the same time, the refrains that resonant through the record affecting me emotional. Yeah. I know. The emoness, however, is overshadowed by its novelistic approach to storytelling and the way we get a collage of different point of views through each song. I didn’t have to listen to one shitty dude talk about his “story.” We hear from the robot kids, and the marketers, and the parents, and narrator, and so on. But for me, the record is less about the story, and more about the challenges technology offers to analog living—or being actually human.
Maybe all these singularistic changes surrounding us have made me prone to sonic affect, but here I am, positively reviewing a record that sounds like jawbreaker has a baby with Pedro the Lion. And those moments that would exercise with the power of 1000 rock gods are so integral to the record that I can’t even bring myself to think about it. They’re not singing about girls and heartbreak, but about what it means to be humans threatened by the digital choke hold squeezing us all to death.
The record is a crescendo: both the music and the narrative. These aforementioned refrain and repetition resonant, “in the modern life everybody is…” Is what? I kept asking and asking and asking to the point of being annoyed till I realized that’s the point. Everyone has lost sight of their identity and we are only getting further from ourselves through digital inference.
The true standout hits are “Jeremy,” “599,” and the album closer, “Modern Life 1.” Though, I’m strangely drawn to “Red One,” about the robot boy who realizes he’s human when his friend cuts open his head in an attempt to deactivate him during an anxiety attack, or the song “321” where Jeremy the robot boy explains what it’s like to try to understand human emotion.
All this says is that someone put this record in front of me and I listened to it wanting to hate on it but today, a couple weeks later, I’m still thinking about it. Hopefully, you can find the same from this record. Or maybe emo is your thing and you’re already predisposed to like this. Whatever the case—check this
MODERN LIFE RECORD RELEASE
Recording Geriatric Noise