September 16, 2012

Album Review: Title Fight's Floral Green

It's been a year unlike any other for veteran post-hardcore acts, with literally every single band who meant anything to the genre a decade ago returning to louder applauds today than the ones they left the stage with. At the same time, none of it says nothing about the sound's future, or their emotions for that matter. Refused appears content with just giving The Shape of Punk to Come a proper send-off while burying the hatchet of hard feelings that claimed their last demise while At the Drive-In put their differences aside to simply show up and take home a large paycheck. Hot Snakes? Quicksand? Seaweed? Chalk it up to nostalgia and good times.

Post-hardcore certainly has a future to look forward to, however, and it's in the safe and battered hands of BUZZSound alumni and 2011 Breakthrough Artist honorees Title Fight. As the melodic punk counterpart to Touché Amoré's screamo renaissance, last year's list-making debut Shed broke the door wide open for the Kingston, PA quartet in reintroducing their scene to a perfected take on the craft legitimized by their predecessors. On their sophomore effort Floral Green, the band takes a mighty stride in reshaping their sound by applying its core ideas to those from beyond the genre, and the result is a beautifully damaged portrait of a young punk band in the heart of a quarter-life crisis trying to make sense out of loss, failure and idleness.

Expanding their ambitions beyond the two-and-half-minute pop-punk standard while experimenting with guitar and bass lines outside a four-chord comfort zone has provided Title Fight with wiggle room to reflect on deeper (and darker) meditations which parlay into miserating aggression, a page torn from the playbook of seminal hardcore-influenced indie rockers such as Sebadoh, Sonic Youth, Nirvana and Hum ("Like a Ritual," "Head In the Ceiling Fan," "In-between.") "I wish I could get over this feeling of slipping under / I never get that far..." frustrates Ned Russin in the LP's blazing opener "Numb, But I Still Feel It." Helplessness permeates throughout Floral Green, where both and co-vocalist Jamie Rhoden dwell on their insecurities and fears more so than seek out resolution to overcome them, but in each instance, each lament and regret fans a new flame to ignite the listen. Their thoughts aren't profound, yet lines like, "I feel lost, feel boring / I've been caught sleeping all morning" ("Leaf") or "I never wanted sympathy / I just wanted to be something" ("Sympathy") achieve a self-deprecating level of honest emotional connect. When they're wound up inside rifled tempos, they hit the heart like bullets.

It's a fete within itself that Title Fight pulled off a sound this mature under their own control, direction and without abandoning their DIY ethos here on Floral Green. Shed, after all, credited post-hardcore lifer Walter Schreifels as its producer, and given his past history as frontman for the likes of Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand and Rival Schools, Schreifel's help took some of the weight off the backs in remaining loyal to the genre's stylistic cred. A preview of the early stages of the album in January's Alternative Press mentioned that both Jawbox's J. Robbins (who has produced albums for the Dismemberment Plan, Jawbreaker and more recently, Lemuria) and New Found Glory's Chad Gilbert were being considered to helm the boards on this go. Both would likely have resulted in a big-sounding Title Fight as well, but maybe not ones as authentic as this. It's a testament to both Title Fight's vision and pay-it-forward ideals that they instead brought in fellow Pennsylvanian Will Yip (an assistant on Shed who doesn't have quite as impressive a résumé as Schreifels) to do everything behind the scenes here. It ended up being a great decision, as Title Fight's genuine ambitions and insecurities are revealed in full without anything standing in their way -- Well, except themselves.

Title Fight's Floral Green will be released September 18, 2012 on SideOneDummy Records.

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