SIRS - SELF-TITLED
Punk is still evolving. It’s been around for a long time (in angsty teen years) and it’s changed a lot. But the underlying principle has never wavered: all your energy as a human being goes into your product, nothing is spared. Punk music doesn’t need to be made of dissonant, distorted chords and gruff shouts. Anyone who insists otherwise needs to shut up for a minute and listen to this album. With their self-titled release, Sirs are proof that punk is not just a genre; it is a movement, and as such, it is moving.
This record is one of the most energetic releases I’ve heard in a while (and that includes hardcore and screamo records). The band has sharpened their sound, their last few EPs and splits progressing into this album, a pinnacle of their potential as a band. This album is CLEAN. But not tame. It will punch you in the teeth. They have taken all their past punk-y experimentation in the fields of twinkly emo, indie rock, and pop, and melded them together, condensed and compressed it all down into something of a punk diamond. The pieces fit like a charm.
The opener “Early Riser” slams the record into gear, and I don’t drive stick but it’s whichever gear is for going fucking fast. There’s a punchy verse with driving, unpredictable chord progressions, a rapid, pounding rhythm section, and a layer of catchy lead guitar spread on top. But gluing this all together is the vocals, my favorite element of Sirs’ sound. Their vocalist is a fast talker, belting out torrents of syllables in shouts and yelled melodies, perfectly in time with the syncopated rhythm section. The vocals stay in sync as the pace drops suddenly into a lumbering epic of a chorus, with an excellent group vocal melody you’ll want to sing along to. But savor it quickly, because all too soon the moment is passed, and the remaining debris is reshaped into the next track “Parading”. Maintaining the pace, this tune extends the glory of the brief intro into a full-fledged song, and it rules. The lead guitar shines here, sliding up and down in an addictive melody. Underscoring this is a tonally exceptional bassline, inventively matching the chord progression throughout. These first two tracks function as an excellent intro to the record, and for the newbies, a great introduction to Sirs’ sound.
The highlight for me (although it will probably be different in a week) is “Backscratcher”, one of the longest and more musically complex tracks on the album. The song is rife with time signature changes, tempo modulations, and inventive chord progressions, and throughout it all it is still accessible music. Every instrument is tight with their respective experimentation, and it comes together in a perfect package. The outro is beautiful, and I am so thankful that the band wrote it. The vocals are timeless, ending with a repetition of the lines “she doesn’t think to look around anymore / she’ll just do as she’s told” and the lead guitar follows with a seriously pretty sliding riff that ascends towards the heavens, matching up well with the escalating chord progression. Soon the moment of revelation comes to a close and left in its place is a flurry of distortion and feedback, through which the thundering drum beat emerges, eventually on its own and vamping this simple yet hypnotizing rhythm that will stick with you. This part goes on for well over a minute, yet it is not wasted space. When the echoing drums tumble into the inevitable silence, it is not a feeling of relief, but of deep satisfaction.
Another favorite of mine is “Eye for an Answer”, a tight pop song-turned-indie punk anthem. I keep mentioning the catchiness of the vocals, but it bears repeating for a track like this. The vocals really carry the song in terms of staying power. It opens with “stop stopping / keep walking” and from there you’re hooked. Even when it takes a turn for the heavy and becomes a fast-paced deluge of screaming over changing tempos, the song and vocals remain memorable and unique, even through to the following track, “Crossbows and Arrows”. Similarly (but not a retread in any sense), this track keeps the punchy vocals, and a driving 4/4 rhythm injects a more straightforward punk vibe into the tune.
The album wraps up with an ingenious finale. “Left to Our Own Devices” is THE solid proof that this band is doing something new. It begins with a deliciously bittersweet guitar melody and mournful, low-pitched vocals, lulling the listener into a reverie before introducing the drums and building up a slow emotional crescendo; there are shouts and yells, but they are just the slightest bit reserved. There’s still more room to grow. And it does, the tempo increasing and the drums whipping up into a whirlwind dotted with accents and, yup, there are real screams. Lots of em, as well as great energetic background vocals. But it can’t build anymore. At least not any louder than it is. So the band steps back a few BPM and end with a huge, crashing instrumental outro; triumphant chords fold in on themselves while pretty high-pitched riffs fill in the top of the mix. And then it slows down more. And more. And with each step back, the true scope of the band’s sound is revealed, the true triumph of the record unveiled, the potential of the band as a whole shines through.
In the grand scheme of things, Sirs aren’t particularly innovative. They’re an indie/emo punk band, and sure, we have a lot of those. But the innovation is in the details, the moments where parts made of different influences are melding with each other and becoming not multiple parts but a unit, and working together to create music with an unmistakably unique approach. Before this record I would have almost certainly name dropped Cap’n Jazz in a Sirs review, a very common influence in the music scene and an instant turnoff for emo fans looking for something new. But Sirs are evolving with the punk music they’re creating, and they’re something new now. Here’s to continued evolution.
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