words by tom johnson
I’ve just finished reading ‘No Country For Old Men’ again recently; Cormac McCarthy’s tale of death and mayhem and a country growing and changing quicker than the old guard can comprehend. Death is omnipresent throughout the novel, but it’s treated as a plain-stated matter of course, something that happens in a variety of ways, for a variety of reasons, but something that just happens, nonetheless. As simple as time moving forwards. As easy as breathing. As nothing, more or less.
Death looms just as profoundly over the new record from Sorority Noise but the depiction of it is far from the mirror image of McCarthy’s. Here it is crushingly real. Here it wrecks lives, it affects each and every aspect of each and every day, it splinters conversations, relationships, routines. It leaps in when you least expect it, shifting the tone in a sudden blow of remembrance. Across these ten tracks, the fall-out from death manifests itself in numerous ways, from full-blown anger, to subtle examinations of what such things mean in far more ambiguous terms – and it makes for a tumultuous journey, but one that still offers hope, and validation, and musical discovery for those of us who are, as consumers, just along for the ride.
Penned by Cameron Boucher as part reactionary diary and part ode to friends that have been left behind, it feels somewhat crass to even talk about the record in terms of musicality given the weight of the content that is covered here; suffice to say that “You’re Not As _____ As You Think” is far and away their most accomplished work to-date, a vehement, detailed, imposing record so full of life it almost feels ironic, given the aforementioned circumstances.
Back to those manifestations, though. I’ve been lucky enough to avoid the harrowing nature of death from a strictly personal point-of-view but I’ve been close to it. I’ve seen the way that it’s affected friends, heard the noises it creates, the language it uses. I’ve watched it break the rules, how it renders such things as useless by existing outside of understanding, with no regard for fairness or consequences. I’ve seen, too, how hard it is to shake, how it worms its way in to conversations, in to nothing at all. And so it is here. While songs such as the storming lead single “No Halo” unflinchingly conquer the subject, elsewhere it creeps in out of the shadows, a line of verse suddenly changing the entire shape of a track; a sucker-punch if ever such a thing existed. “A Portrait Of” follows a consideration about ensuring you have a glass of water before bed with the simple declaration that “I’ve lost too many friends”, while “Where Are You” sings a song of self survival that suddenly reverts back to those that are no longer there: “I’ve got friends who’ve died, but everything’s going to be alright, they’ll be with me by my side every night,” Boucher sings, before leaping back in to the light.
That light is eminently important on a record such as this, and it would be wrong to say that it’s an album that lives solely in the dark. For all the gut-wrenching moments of realisation and reflection, “You’re Not As _____ As You Think” still gleams with warm-blood. There are numerous falls in to the dark and shade, plenty of furious diatribes against the world and the unshackled unfairness of it all, but it never once aims to stay there. By always moving forward, by furiously staring the darkness in the eye as he plays on regardless, Boucher has crafted a record that is at once as personal as it is embracing. We never once doubt that the sentiments and characters are real but we’re also able to shift the glow of them slightly to invest our own back-stories in to them. And even when such things aren’t possible, when the lyrics belong, crushingly, overwhelmingly, to the subject only, it’s all delivered with such heartening, beautiful gusto that we’re happy to simply be swept along for the ride.
And, in the end, that’s exactly what that album title stands for. “You’re Not As _____ As You Think”. Fill that gap in for yourself. Deflect the statement towards someone else or use it to examine your own life and experiences. Hear these songs and take the pieces that you need from them, they’ll still exist for those that wrote them and those that they were written about. And you might well need them, parts of them, all of them, for yourself. You’re really not as _____ as you think, and this record tells you that more brazenly, more beautifully, more plain-faced than anything else you’re likely to hear this year.
“You’re Not As _____ As You Think” is released on March 17th
via Triple Crown Records (US) and Big Scary Monsters (UK)