BY: THOMAS NASSIFF
- Release Date: June 19, 2012
- Record Label: Rise Records
- Rating: 8.5/10
Usually during the course of a great band’s career, fans will be able to point to one album that was some sort of turning point. A visible benchmark that signaled the group’s true arrival, when the band stopped being good and started to climb into that “next level” of bands that get passed on to the next generation. It’s impossible to predict what a group will do in future releases, but if Make Do and Mend ends up having a notable career and being fondly remembered as an awesome part of the post-punk (or whatever you want to call it) genre, this will be the album that people point to.
That’s not to say that Make Do and Mend’s debut for Rise Records, Everything You Ever Loved, is a perfect album. Or really anywhere near perfect. It has its growing pains as the band shifts its sound, which is only expected. But it’s the shift in sound that suddenly makes this band way more interesting on a large scale. The group’s first LP, End Measured Mile, was as good as the post-punk, copy-Hot-Water-Music genre gets. Abandoning the adjectives that album reviewers strive to master, let me just say: That record was really good. I wrote, or maybe didn’t write it but at least thought to myself, that Make Do and Mend out-Hot-Water-Music’ed Hot Water Music on that album. That’s saying a lot.
Everything You Ever Loved is the band taking the best of their punk influences and throwing in the influence of another band they love, Jimmy Eat World. And if that sounds like an odd pairing, it kind of is – at least on first listen. On first listen, Everything You Ever Loved didn’t sit well with me. End Measured Mile was unabashedly aggressive, a blistering album where vocalist James Carroll was more concerned with yelling at you until his point got across than what his vocals actually sounded like. The passion overrode the technicality. That was pure power, and that was a strength for the band. On Everything You Ever Loved, Carroll isn’t yelling as much, but rather sending his messages across mostly in a calmer demeanor, with the band also growing more tame. They’re as passionate, but they’re more technical. And it works just as well – actually, Carroll and Make Do and Mend are better because of it.
The opening “Blur” is a good example – even though the track starts at a moderate pace, Carroll still gets loud when the song picks up. He bellows in the chorus, “So what if everything that you ever loved / More than anything / Was killing you this slow? / You’d let it go.” Shortly after, a guitar solo, another chorus driven by Matt Carroll’s drum bursts, and a brilliant guitar riff in the outro tell us one thing: Make Do and Mend isn’t playing around here. That’s the kind of opening track that people remember years down the road. “Count” and probable future single “Disassemble” follow the opener to create a powerful triumvirate at the beginning of the album, and the latter of these songs is particularly impressive, but the first three tracks might fool listeners a bit. These three tracks are the most like End Measured Mile, but as the atmospheric “St. Anne,” with its wailing guitar bits, and other songs like it (“Royal,” “Storrow”) show, Everything You Ever Loved is a decidedly slower-paced record.
Even the album highlight, the Foo Fighters-esque “Drown In It,” is deliberately mid-tempo, and it’s in the slower songs when Make Do and Mend really begins to flex its muscle. The second verse is irresistible with its string accompaniment, but the bridge is where the band gets silly good. Just after the 2-minute mark, a guitar riff big enough to fill an arena kicks in, prompting listeners to severely raise the volume and head-bang. The songs winds out on a lighter note before seamlessly leading into first single “Lucky,” which offers up another opportunity to turn up the speakers.
The versatility of this record is not necessarily a surprise, because the Carroll Brothers & Co. have shown us plenty of variety before. Everything You Ever Loved simply takes that to a new level. The pop-punk-ish “Stay In the Sun” provides a necessary upbeat flavor, complementing the mid-tempo and slower songs. Much later in the album, “Hide Away” gives us Carroll’s best vocal performance and a great chorus, and closer “Desert Lily” gets introspective, a slicing cut about being away from home. In fact, the introspection of “Desert Lily” is an accurate look into how intimate and personal Carroll’s lyrics on the entire record are – whether he’s deafeningly belting out his words or delivering them in moody tones, he’s singing about something important to him, and it won’t be long until the words are important to you, too.
Big-time fans of End Measured Mile might find difficulty in latching onto Everything You Ever Loved at first. Especially in the middle of the album, when the tempo really slows down and the songs are new territory for this band, the oldest fans might find their expectations confused with the product. But take a step back and analyze the record on its own, without any preconceived notions, and there’s nary a category where Make Do and Mend doesn’t improve on Everything You Ever Loved. Carroll’s vocals are better, the musicianship is better, the rhythm is more impressive, and the songwriting is flat-out leagues ahead. The real scary thing here is that there are still some songs that could be improved upon – and when MDAM really gets down and glues together the tiny holes in its sound, we could witness the meteoric rise of a truly phenomenal rock and roll group.
And we’ll point to Everything You Ever Loved as the time they took that leap into the stratosphere.