To Be Gentle
My older brother Pat has been playing drums off and on since Erich Lenk had that sick setup with the insulated music room at the Anacapa house. Poker, soccer, basketball, baseball, drums, fitness, mountain biking, skateboarding, surfing, snowboarding, art, golf, music, philosophy. It sometimes strikes me at times how lucky I am. I was just thinking that earlier today, driving home after another great weekend in Tahoe, that I was dealt a pretty nice hand in life. And, I have all these above things in common with my older brother? It almost seems unfair to me how good I have it.
My brother keeps me grounded. If I know I’m lazy with my work ethic or health, he’s one of the people I hide it from. He was able to lead without controlling when we were kids, and offered guidance when needed. He was able to teach me how to skate. Pat is a gifted dude who gets pretty damn good at whatever he puts his mind to, and I think it is because he sets a high standard for things. My brother is the man, and his band just released their debut album. Here’s my review…
There are some bands that came to mind when listening to this album for a month. There are new school punk influences, 90s hardcore, and screamo, with newer post-rock and possibly even some pop influences. Hopesfall’s The Satellite Years came to mind when I was trying to think of that hardcore band with noodly guitars and epic climaxes (see “Dana Walker” and “The Bending”). The lead singer leads with a traditional screamo yell and counters with a more unorthodox, yelping clean version that makes its very first appearance in the opening line of “All the Things I Was Too Scared to Say,” then reappears for most of “We Build Our Castles in the Air.” His yelp reminds me a bit of Bane’s lead singer Aaron Bedard.
The album starts off strong. “Understanding Healing” is a satisfying post-rock opener and fits their style well. “All the Things I Was Too Scared to Say” is the first real track and based off the first minute of the album, you might think this is going to be the Yellowcard for the hardcore crowd. This is a fun way to get a hardcore album going. Lyrics can read fairly juvenile on paper and then unexpectedly explode when paired with the music (“I’ll bring you back to where it’s safe and warm!”). I would have liked to hear that section repeated for a second time later in the track, but hey, the listener doesn’t get to call the shots! Unquestionably the happiest sounding track, this is a great start to kick off a debut album.
The lyrics start to cut deeper in track 3, with the line, “break these chains, feel and grow, precious keepsake, that I call home…” and the song seems to tell the story of a man who has dealt with fear but has found a home, and may have met someone else dealing with some of the same issues. An inspirational picture of throwing fears to the sky while the home builds and strengthens, brick by brick, fear conquered by fear conquered. The home fortifies and comes with it comfort and peace. Unlike “All the Things…” this track does not leave out the exclamation point, and delivers with the climax, “your fear of your failures reminds me of my own and it scares me” all the way to “when I am with you.”
The final three tracks in some ways mirror the first three. “The Hand That Rests On My Shoulder” provides an interesting take on the introspection of the vegan as an individual thinker. Songs are often memorable because of something other than the music. This song leads with a spoken-word introduction, and later, with about 1:40 left, the spoken word, “we pay for our carnism with our hearts, and with our minds. Because to eat the body of another sentient being, we have to block our awareness, and shut down our ____ (missed it), empathy and awareness are integral to our sense of self. We pay for our carnism with the gap in our consciousness.” This is a very interesting way to introduce a finale. “I see a hope in empathy!!!!!” Powerful stuff.
“One Day We Will No Longer Hurt” is unapologetically heartfelt and communicates the writer’s positive outlook, almost as if he is speaking to himself, providing introspective guidance. The build-up is the standout in this track. A possibly black-metal influenced part comes out of nowhere (“back and forth these thoughts fade in and out”) to serve as the introductory build. Then, the spoken word in the background (this time by the singer) serves as the climax setup. I love the 4x repeat of the lyric, “this is the sound of a love ascending, through my being, my spirit, my everything.” When an album opens and ends with obvious opening and ending tracks, the 2nd and 2nd to last tracks are important, and To Be Gentle nailed the challenge with “All the Things I Was Too Scared to Say” and “One Day We Will No Longer Hurt.”
To Be Gentle has released a very interesting, original debut album. There are some parts on this album I am not sure have ever been done before or yet combined together in such a way. There are sections that I dislike and sections that I love. It is going to be really interesting to see what comes next.