loading...

The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Assorted Works Music Album Reviews

This compilation of rarities shows the beloved emo band growing into their status as a generational voice.

The emo revival was largely a humble, underground phenomenon when The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die got started in 2009, but everything about them—their name, what seemed like a dozen people on stage trying to keep six-minute songs called “Eyjafjallajokull Dance” from collapsing on themselves—was too audacious and absurd to be ignored. It was clear they’d either be a generational voice or they might implode after one album, if they even get to that point. Maybe both. Even before their seismic proper debut Whenever, If Ever, TWIABP owed this reputation to the daunting and diffuse array of splits, singles, EPs and alternates that are collected for Assorted Works—a compilation that functions as a capstone for a bygone version of TWIABP, an entire scene, and an entire decade.


Scour r/emo, Midwest Emoposting or any other similarly minded community, and “Best Of” mixes of this material likely already exist, the band’s shadow history distilled into an unofficial TWIABP LP4. So Assorted Works might not actually be meant for the hardcore TWIABP fan—it’s a work of convenience rather than curation, 20 tracks in semi-chronological order over the span of nearly 80 minutes. And really, it’s far more fun to explore these songs in their original contexts, where TWIABP’s evolution can be traced from a confounding curiosity to a band that stuck around long enough to be a formative influence.

The first four tracks are taken from Are Here to Help You, a split with New Hampshire’s sorely underappreciated Deer Leap. “Beverly Wyatt,” which shows them beginning to refine and weaponize their burst-and-bloom dynamics, is also a treasured artifact from a crucial period: a few months before the release of Whenever, If Ever. On its original 4-way split, “Beverly Wyatt” served as the binding agent between the dour indie-pop of Tigers Jaw, the misanthropy of Self Defense Family, and metalcore innovators Code Orange, who were about five years away from realizing their full potential as WWE entrance music.

Though TWIABP already felt unruly and grandiose, they were still clearly a product of their local emo scene—probably the only reason they weren’t immediately hailed as maximalist indie rock standard-bearers like Arcade Fire or Broken Social Scene. Most of the notable bands of that time had an off-key yelper and an off-key hardcore guy on the mic. TWIABP had both: Tom Diaz and a guy named “Shitty Greg,” who’s credited with inventing the term “twinkle daddy,” which could refer to the two dominant modes of guitar in early TWIABP—the ringing, exploratory harmonies of American Football or the stardust trails of Explosions in the Sky.

It took time for TWIABP to make sense of everything, but from Are Here to Help You, it already was clear what they were about. Diaz was the singer for a band that conscientiously lacked a frontperson, writing almost entirely in plural pronouns about building community, reinforcing the meta, world-building quality of the band. The first half of Assorted Works introduced melodic motifs and homespun images (cars parked on the lawn, climbing trees) that would be revisited on their later albums, while “Mega Steve” is the first in a trilogy of TWIABP songs honoring drummer Steven Buttery, the only person to appear on all 20 tracks. Fuss with the sequencing of Assorted Works’ first half and there’s an alternate vision for Whenever, If Ever that similarly juggles propulsive pop-punk (“Be Neon With Me”), scratchy folk (“To the Janitor, to the King”) and their preeminent mode, which conflated emo’s anxious energy with post-rock’s grandeur. As is, they justify the hype that turned Whenever, If Ever into the emo revival’s first phenomenon—anticipation was so fervent that the label had to move it up due to leaks, and it even managed to scratch the outer edges of the Billboard 200.

Oddly enough, Whenever, If Ever is the source for the one true rarity on Assorted Works. “Gig Life” is the most plainspoken song Diaz wrote for the band, a vivid account of going from college town to college town, sustained by Sheetz and mewithoutYou albums. The take here, sourced from a lathe-cut single, cuts off before reaching the orchestral crescendo of the Whenever, If Ever version, and its incompleteness is even more poignant as his last vocal feature on Assorted Works—Diaz left the band prior to the release of Whenever, If Ever and died at the age of 32 in 2018.

Diaz’s role was absorbed by David Bello, whose vocals were similar enough on Whenever, if Ever that the two were easy to confuse. But Diaz never had a chance to guide something like “Fat Heaven,” the morose, feedback-scarred track that immediately follows “Gig Life,” and leads into the most antagonistic work of TWIABP’s catalog. “A Note From the Author February 1st to the Author January 1st” introduces the borderline-parodic spoken-word readings of Chris Zizzamia, whose presence lent an intriguing, unstable element to the band’s live shows. It’s followed by “We Carry Knives,” six minutes of harsh noise that appeared on tour-only single The Distance. In retrospect, those one-offs are the sound of TWIABP testing their outer limits before their transcendent sophomore album Harmlessness, a work so fantastically realized that it inevitably siphons some magic off of what surrounds it. The Assorted Works cut from this period are almost uniformly strong and occasionally sublime—the murderous double-kick drum outro of “Katamari Duquette” is a highlight, as is “Smoke & Felt,” featuring call-and-response vocals between Bello and Katie Dvorak.

loading...
Assorted Works cuts off on “Body Without Organs,” a song that didn’t quite mesh with the generous spirituality of Harmlessness and was released as an ACLU benefit in November 2016. There’s nothing here made by the lineup responsible for 2017’s Always Foreign, nor have TWIABP produced any new music in the time since—a significant decline in momentum two years after an album that was primed to be a breakthrough. Always Foreign featured TWIABP’s catchiest songs and also their most relevant, as Bello drew on his experience as a person of color for timely invective against rising anti-immigration rhetoric, proving TWIABP was not a band bound by their utopian idealism.

There has been a lot of turmoil in the band’s lineup since then. The only remaining original member is Buttery; “Shitty Greg” left for good in 2015 and is now a booking agent for a lot of bands you’ve probably seen if you liked TWIABP. The remaining members of TWIABP are working on their next album with “probably the strongest core we have yet,” and maybe it will just as strong as everything else they’ve released. But they look downright normal now, promoting a collection that remembers when they could’ve been anything in the world.


View my Flipboard Magazine.

View the original article here
Share on Google Plus

About Udara Madusanka

    Blogger Comment
    Facebook Comment

0 comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...