It’s an old saying “you can take forever to release your first album, but your second album must be out in less than 2 years”… the follow up to this one will probably come out with Mad Seasons‘ sophomore album.
I make no assumptions of how this band must feel. Ten years to release an album?
Still, the end product feels right. Very, very right. Maybe all that had to be said has been in the 12 tracks that make up for the very self-deprecating debút-suicide Unknown failures by The Letter. Combining bits of that genre that shall not be named (Britpop!) with a lot of rock paintbrush strokes, occasionally veering into prog, and, why the frijoles not? Post Rock! It’s loud but not overbearing, honest but not mushy and above all, a document of an era that marked the life of all the band members.
“I’m an evil man, I am / I’m an irritant, I am / I’m a fickle friend, I am / There’s a beautiful woman for every evil man”. This. That’s how Unknown Failures starts, the whimper giving way into the bang that is ‘The irritant’, 8 minutes plus of confessions and platitudes that come after it all has collapsed, not when it was tethering and could be saved.
The lyrical content of the album is a strong one. It’s a chicken & egg sort of situation: is the great music feeding from the equally great lyrics? The catharsis of ‘Don’t forget to smile’, with its instrumental hallways and layered voices is an appreciated one. Heck, “destroy all mankind!” is how we all feel sometimes. Go Daleks!
‘Typewriter’, that’s one I enjoyed from the get go. From the rocking start and all the guitar shenanigans going around, it’s equal parts dance, baggy trouser anthem and post rock (mit lyrics). The genre hopping is swift, seamless and it gives that Sondheim musical sense of dread and staunch emotion baring. See also: ‘Don’t lock yourself in’ and ‘First task’. Didn’t really like ‘Doubt Reversal’, though. Can’t pinpoint why.
But, yeah, ‘Typewriter’. The song’s cyclical nature feels like those stupid vicious cycles we enjoy snaring ourselves into. Yeah, that’s it. Songs about setting our own traps and falling into them. Dr. Doom / Goldfinger falling into the path of its death ray. The repressed anger that inevitably gives way for remorse (‘Coins in hand’, ‘Champagne’), that’s the lyrical forte of The Letter.
You could think about The Cure‘s ‘Jupiter Crash’, where he ponders morosely about a comet hitting Jupiter and how it amounted to nothing (possibly relating it to another heartbreak as Robert “King Raccoon” Smith never learns his lesson). In this case, the album DOES amount to something: a proper album that feels cohesive and maybe a pandora’s box for many a note to be written. And, hey, long songs that never get boring are always appreciated.
Godspeed, The Letter, ‘cuz the history of Unknown Failures might be hitting closer to home for some of us, probably more than you might think. Those notes at the beginning of ‘Bad Things’ feel like December of last year…
Words: Sam J. Valdes Lopez
PS: You can download a free song from this great album, amongst other ace bands, right here.