By Matthew Waters
Photo from their Facebook page.
London based pop punk quartet Evans The Death released their debut, self-titled album on April 2nd. The band is comprised of Katherine Whitaker on vocals, Dan and Olly Moss on guitar, Lan McArdle on bass and vocals, and Rob Mitson on drums.
The album sinks into a groove upon the unfolding of track number three, which is titled “Sleeping Song/So Long”. The first two songs, “Bo Diddley” and “Catch Your Cold”, are satisfying, fast-paced thrashers with some thoughtful lyrics and an urgent sound. The last minute of “Catch Your Cold” features a crunchy guitar and triumphant drums against the refrain, “I’m not afraid of catching your cold.”
But everything changes with “Sleeping Song/So Long,” especially with the repetition of a particularly brilliant lyric: “The sun is coming up like a hung over socialite rolling out of bed.” Considering the themes explored through the rest of the album, especially in the final, brutally vivid track “You’re Joking”, this lyric establishes a convincing voice. Our listening point of view is of the resplendent sun in envy, instead of appreciation.
The instrumentation of “Sleeping Song/So Long veers between dreamy and intense. “It can’t be this hard to relax,” Whitaker practically pleads, contrasting the socialite sun. A ghostly, acoustic outro provides echoing punctuation. “So long… so long…” sings a disembodied voice as the track winds down.
The next song, “Letter of Complaint”, further establishes a vulnerable narrative voice. “I’m not too sure that I want to go/The music I won’t understand/And the people I won’t know,” Whitaker sings in a fragile whisper, over a gently driving, mellow rhythm. She doesn’t want to go out tonight, but one gets the impression she’ll end up doing just that, anyway. The song’s abrupt nature reflects repression lovingly expressed. A more rocking style returns for “Telling Lies”, highlighted by a soaring chorus and guttural guitar soloing.
The soloing sounds like a musically interpreted hangover headache. It’s enthralling to hear all these different elements slid neatly into the two and a half minute track time, and repeated listening is warranted. The longest song on the album is, in fact, is only three and a half minutes (“Morning Voice”).
As life often exhibits, brevity is the black heart of brutal honesty. In that regard, Evans The Death succeeds in spades. There is room for some exploration and experimentation, though. For instance, “Threads”, with its interesting observations about the impossibility about escapism and severe anxiety, could have benefitted from a slower burn. On the other hand, the next tune, the positively acidic “A Small Child Punched me in the Face”, requires no further elaboration. The closing lyric, “I believe the children are the scourge of the streams/Because they throw apples at me/ and they punched me,” is very darkly humorous within the context of the song.
The album’s penultimate song, “Wet Blanket”, boasts exciting shifts in tempo along with witty lyrics. “Hanging outside in the pouring rain/And I can’t wait to see you so I can complain/It’s a drip, drip, drip, drip, drip over you/ I’m the one frowning in your flyer/If you’re happy and you know it I’ll call you a liar.” These are short songs, but they are meticulously designed and self-aware. The self-awareness allows for the infusion of humor and makes the album highly accessible. Primary songwriter Dan Moss has a great feel for melody and dynamics.
“You’re Joking” is the closer. The dreamlike guitar and Whitaker’s dazed delivery are reminiscent of “Sleeping Song/So Long”. For all the wit expressed throughout the album, Whitaker leaves the listener singing sad, helpless lyrics. “Now I live under your kitchen sink/I’ll be there when you need a drink.” With this tune, Evans the Death underline what their entire album has done, and what any quality pop album should aspire to do: expand the realms of a pop song chemistry. Despite all the wit, consciousness, charm, and dark humor expressed so artfully throughout, “You’re Joking” is still very much about a broken heart. In the face of the vibrant intelligence expressed before, does that make for a sadder ending, or a happier one? Guess it depends on the listener, and how one views the sun.