April 28, 2013

Album Review: Paint It Black's Invisible EP

Photo courtesy of Alyssa Tanchajja
Melodic hardcore vets Paint It Black have managed to escape the indie-fication many of their peers such as Fucked Up, Ceremony (who count PIB bassist Andy Nelson as a member as well,) Pissed Jeans and Title Fight have found crossover success in, and it doesn't sound like they mind it whatsoever despite dressing their sound in similar punk fashion. In a recent interview with BrooklynVegan, Nelson spoke about the double edged sword that is being pegged as a token punk band for indie audiences, and let it be known that "things like 'exposure' and 'crossover crowd' never come to mind -- I think you'd have to be pretty cynical to operate that way" when it comes to Paint It Black's game plan. It's been four years since the Philadelphia quartet's last efforts, a dual helping of EPs, and five years since their remarkable third LP New Lexicon predated hardcore's genre-bending by using a wealth of pop anthemry to their benefit without losing sight on its physical matter. Their latest, Invisible, is a conclusion of sorts to the trilogy Paint It Black began in EP format back in 2009, and it backs up Nelson's claims by finding he and Dan Yemin, Josh Agran and Jared Shavelson reclaiming the basic ethos their early material recklessly tread while still maintaining their spot atop the punk evolutionist echelon.

Invisible has been a work in progress churning inside the mind of lyricist and vocalist Dan Yemin for three years now. In the time that it's taken Paint It Black to regroup (thanks to members living on both coasts of the States and absorbed in other serious music projects, subsequent tours, full-time jobs and perhaps the most demanding obligation of all: parenthood) so has Yemin's perspective on addressing many of the same issues he has in the past. It's his investment into understanding his words met by his bandmates' riled up energy to be there with him that punctuates the EP's impression. Speaking with PunkNews, the post-hardcore luminary detailed how the birth of his daughter, psychoanalyzing alienation and the importance of confronting sexism led to Invisible's design:
"So I had these lyrics with certain lines trying to take on a female perspective and I posted it on Facebook and wrote about what I was struggling with - how I was struggling with what voice to use. I wanted feedback, especially from women and I got a lot of it -- It was amazing. Most women felt that trying to speak in a female voice would be inauthentic. It was in many ways recreating the worst aspects of men speaking to women, which is a problem. So I took that advice, kept the skeleton of the lyrics and changed it so it was in my voice and was talking about sexism but also about the problems of male power and the ways in which judgement and perspective can work to empower some people while dis-empowering others -- with sexism being one of the many contexts where that manifests. One of the comments from one of the women who answered was 'You should call it 'Invisible' because that's how I feel sometimes.' "
The most obvious example of this is the EP's central track "Little Fists," in which Yemin writes a hardcore lullaby for lil' Simone Rosa about self-expression and rising above the constraints inflicted by others ("You know we’ve got to fall before we walk / We’ve got to sink before we swim / So have patience / Stop checking the clock / And if someone locks you out, kick your way back in...") which also doubles as Agran, Nelson and Shavelson's most sincere indulgence in pop-punk hooks to date without losing a bit of their bite. "Headfirst" is a more blunt and aggressive take on this same message ("Headfirst, kicking and screaming / Naked and afraid into this world we’re thrown / You might feel out of place sometimes / But you’ll never be alone...)
that drives down familiar lanes derived from PIB's early formula of loud, fast and short hardcore gut checks. The four haven't gone entirely soft in their message regardless, as opener "Greetings, Fellow Insomniacs" and latter listens "D.F.W." and "Invisible" situate their hungry growl somewhere between uncomfortably numb and outwardly inflamed by the societal belittlement Yemin intended to confront from the get-go.

Invisible fires off one other clear message, and it's that one part of Paint It Black cannot not possibly function without the other, as Dan Yemin's words would otherwise lose some of their impressionable luster without Nelson, Agran and Shavelson rising to the occasion to perform with just as much emotional intensity as the vocalist. After all, the Philadelphia post-hardcore makers have always tied their sound around the most primal, introspective and sometimes tough-to-face of feelings, and in that regard, the Invisible EP documents a solid growth spurt for a hardcore band that has always sought to arrive there naturally.

Paint It Black's Invisible EP is available now on No Idea Records.

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