Break Even- The Bright Side (NSFW)

(Anchors Aweigh Records)

What is hardcore?

Is this hardcore?

Is this hardcore?

Is this hardcore?

Is this hardcore?

Is this hardcore?

As you can see, hardcore is not my ‘thing’. As heavy, shouty grumbling goes though, Break Even appear to know what they are doing, because what they know they have done on this record is something I know I quite like. It’s more Black Flag than Rise Against (good thing too, you ask me), but their debut The Bright Side does contain a nice melodic edge, as well as some lovely instrumental passages that break the pattern of bellowed melancholia before it ever has a chance to get monotonous.

Break Even are quite open about the fact that this record is a memorial to their friend and former guitarist Rowan Willoughby, who committed suicide in 2008. If The Bright Side has a concept, it seems to be an attempt to draw out as much positivity as can be salvaged from such a heartbreaking event. Do hardcore bands typically step correct with ‘a positive message’? I don’t know, to be honest, but I do find the combination of life-affirmation and raw, naked aggression to be quite interesting, if not even a little bit odd.

The opening tunes are like a pair of bookends, or peas in a pod, or like two songs on an album that fit together. Sunrise boils down a reflective post-rock meander of ringing guitars, yowling feedback and galloping snare drums into a thick, soupy minute-and-a-half, which is the best idea fucking Mogwai never had. After it pinches out, you hang in silence for a handful of seconds and then BANG, here’s October 27th, which is either my most favourite thing on this album, or it isn’t. I think it is. It’s grooving along nicely, all stomp and growl, when you suddenly get this little refrain about shining bright. (Note: More evidence for Cillit Bang/hardcore connection? Must investigate.) It’s more of a hook than you initially think, though.

Other songs, like Run For Your Life, Resentment and Heart Shape House are quicker still, and the latter has a nice bell curve build-up through the intro, through the meatus of the song, toward a half-time coda, twirled around one of the only real lead hooks that the album boasts. It swings instantly into The Truth, which is probably my other favourite tune here; an inverse double-time rattle with some lovely chord changes.

Unfortunately, The Truth also demonstrates my only real issue with this record; the lyrics. I recognise that they have been penned in response to an awful personal tragedy, but I’m a picky fucker when it comes to words, and so I deliberately don’t pay much attention to song lyrics, because I know they will only annoy me. But, what with Break Even making such a hoo-hah about their positive message, I checked out the lyric sheet. If ‘sometimes we have to get lost to find ourselves’ is your best attempt at worldly wisdom, I can only suggest you bung it back in the oven for a bit. Maybe buy a gross of fortune cookies wholesale, lads, see if you can find a bit of inspiration.

I’m not entirely convinced by the title track, either; a plaintive, gentle piano ballad stuck in the middle of all that testosterone and angst. It’s a lovely enough piece of music, but it sticks out like a priapism at a playground, except more incongruous and inappropriate. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome change in tempo and volume, and it comes in at a point where I was starting to find myself getting a bit fed up of Mark Bawden’s yelling.

The Bright Side is a decent record. I’ve not heard anything in its 35 minutes sufficient to forcibly evacuate me from my socks, but then this album isn’t really for me, is it? It’s for plonkers who like to make circle pits and sneer at people who drink beer. If straight edge punk and hardcore fans weren’t morally opposed to wearing socks, I imagine they might get them blown off by Break Even.

http://www.myspace.com/breakevenhc

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