Alexisonfire – “Old Crows/Young Cardinals”

Canada’s post-hardcore prodigal sons Alexisonfire once again return with this, their 4th studio album and this time taking a decidedly different approach to their usual sound that they are most known for.

Tracking back to their self-titled debut and then to their Watch Out! album, through to their last release Crisis, there has been a very similar, recognisable sound to their brand of post-hardcore, but as well as this there has been noticeable progressions. Their debut had experimental guitar sounds mixed with furious, cutting vocals courtesy of frontman George Pettit, whilst singer/guitarist Dallas Green focused mainly on the musical aspect of his role. Watch Out! saw him break out of his shell considerably more, and involved more high-tempo set lists and is still considered by many to be their best album to date. The same cannot be said for Crisis, since in many people’s eyes this was a bit of a letdown.

Old Crows/Young Cardinals is immediately a completely different beast, as the status quo has been changed quite a bit in their sound. “Other” guitarist Wade MacNeil lends his vocals a lot more as well as Dallas Green taking a bit more of the limelight and adding richer, darker and more beautiful harmonies to the music, whilst George Pettit takes on an entirely different style in his. Whilst before, Pettit’s vocals were considerably more shredding, sounding like he’d swallowed sandpaper and a whole bunch o’ hate to achieve his vocals, this time he’s taken on a more hardcore punk sound, coming across deeper and bolder than before.

Opener Old Crows builds up to its chorus which contains the sentiment “we are not the kids we used to be”, and its clear to see that no, they really aren’t! But this isn’t in anyway a bad thing, as this entire record continues from this point onwards with its up-tempo pace and deep, enthralling lyrics that contain all kinds of themes, all the while Dallas Green’s lyrics adding richness and colour to the pictures the lyrics paint. Young Cardinals, as the band have said, is a song about the power of nature overturning nurture (as is a majority of the album), which is clear in the contrasting lyrics of natural beauties being destroyed by “nicotine babies being born with no spines”. Chilling, yes, but again the lush, expansive vocals of Green in the chorus brighten things and show that nature shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The pace from this song continues all the way through the next few songs, all of which are brilliantly bold and diverse, until we reach The Northern, which could possibly be described as the No Transitory (from Watch Out!) of this album. It’s a considerably slower song, maybe the slowest of the album, but no less grand in its design with lyrics suggesting strong religious connotations despite the fact that Alexisonfire have not hinted at being in any way religious. The pace is immediately picked back up again as the album continues into Midnight Regulations (leaving no breathing space in between any of the songs as they nearly meld into each other), which has the chorus “Brother! There is no charity for the common man, when he is in need of relief.”

Second-to-last song Accept Crime arguably has the most punk-influenced sound of the album (although, there may not be much in it!) and brings out the riffs and the heavy stuff, before going into closer Burial. Unfortunately, this song brings what has so far been a hard-hitting album to a considerably slow-paced close, and sounds more like something that would belong more on one of Dallas Green’s City And Colour albums (despite it not being a solo-acoustic effort) rather than closing Old Crows/Young Cardinals after the sound this album has achieved. But, again, it’s not that its bad, its just more out of place than anything.

Overall, this is a very confident effort from the post-hardcore Canucks, especially after so many were let down by Crisis. I admit that I was perhaps a bit reluctant to immediately go out and get this album on release despite my liking the band so much as I knew they’d taken a different approach to their craft this time, but if anything Old Crows/Young Cardinals shows that change doesn’t always spell the end for a band, but more a new start in a different direction.

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LISTED Film Previews – August/September ’09

Another month, another set of previews for you to stick your dirty great eyes out at! A few pretty good looking ones this month (you’ll probably know which ones because I’ve written more about them than the others!), so if you get the chance to check any of them out I’d definitely recommend you do! Anyway, here you go:

FUNNY PEOPLE (15) (Dir. Judd Apatow)

The director of such comedies as Anchorman and Knocked Up brings us a slightly more sentimental offering this time, as this follows the story of Adam Sandler’s character George Simmons, a seasoned comedian who learns of his terminal, inoperable blood disease. He later does a show at a comedy club with a struggling new comedian Ira (Seth Rogen) who has yet to figure out his persona, and the two form a genuine friendship as George hires Ira to be his opening act. People that enjoyed previous films with either of these two actors should make an effort to see this if they want something a bit deeper and meaningful. Released August 28th.

H2 (18) (Dir. Rob Zombie)

Starting off mere hours after the end of the first Halloween re-imagining, Rob Zombie is bringing inhuman serial killer Michael Myers back to the big screen for a second helping of horror for Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) on Halloween. I’m normally all for decent Horror films (even if they’re re-imaginings) but a lot of ground was covered on the first one, which doesn’t leave much space for this second film to measure up. Definitely see it if you’re a horror buff or haven’t seen the originals, though! Released August 28th.

FAME (PG) (Dir. Kevin Tancharoen)

This updated remake of the original 1980’s musical and series follows the lives and dramas of students at the New York Academy of Performing Arts, and looks like it has a carefully selected and talented cast. It looks set to re-invigorate the original feel of Fame with a uniquely modern and urban twist in the performances. Nostalgic fans and female divas should watch and take notes – guys may want to bring a magazine, though! Released September 25th.

GAMER (18) (Dir. Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor)

Set in a distant future where people are controlled by other people in mass-scale, online multiplayer games, Gerard Butler’s star player character Kable seeks to regain his independence. Crank meets World Of Warcraft? Quite possibly, but it may be a hollow way to waste a Saturday night! Released September 4th.

ADVENTURELAND (15) (Dir. Greg Mottola)

Set in the summer of 1987, recent college graduate James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) plans for a European summer tour before going to an Ivy League School, but instead has to take a summer job in order to pay his expenses for the trip. After taking what he thinks is the worst job in the world working in the nearby decrepit amusement park Adventureland, it turns out to be the best time of his life as he encounters unforgettable learning experiences about life, love and trust from his fellow under-paid workers. Co-starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as love interest Emily Lewin, this new film from the director of Superbad had expectations for more teenage hilarities, but what instead unravels is a rather touching story of youthful misadventures that makes for a very entertaining and grounded comedy film. Released 11th September.

As Published in Listed Magazine Issue 21 and on www.listedmagazine.com