“In the end, I’m left disappointed more than anything.” – MacDara on Limerick’s We Come In Pieces second album, Night Of The Living.
Limerick power trio We Come In Pieces come to their sophomore album with a strong live reputation and a host of critical plaudits to boot. They’re “probably the hardest working band in Ireland” says music blog The Point of Everything. They’re “brimful of hardcore energy and intelligent arrangements” says Hot Press. They’re “a thundering post-hardcore juggernaut… that recalls Dischord bands like Jawbox and Bluetip in their prime” says Glasgow’s 13th Note venue.
That’s some press. So it’s not at all surprising that upstart Cork independent label Champion Edition snapped them up for its first catalogue release. But do they live up to the accolades?
Things certainly don’t start promising. If you want to make a good first impression and stand apart as your own thing, then aping the sound of another hip Irish band is probably not the best of moves. In this case, the treated guitar noodling that kicks off opener ‘Night of the Living‘ immediately brings to mind Adebisi Shank, a group that might have impeccable taste (they’re fans of the legendary Mike Watt) and be totally down with the kids and all that, but musically do zero for me. In fairness, that’s only the first 30 seconds or so – the rest of the track is pretty generic melodic hardcore with a shouty chorus bit. Where’s the Jawbox? Where’s the Bluetip? Not exactly winning me over, here.
Second track ‘Husker Don’t‘ (love that title, by the way) is better, if blatantly in debt to its influences – they can’t help themselves really, they even have a drummer who sings lead like Grant Hart! – and it’s one of a few flashes of quality power pop that crop up throughout: you can hear them in ‘Hojo27‘, ‘Knights of the Living‘ and the single ‘Sexy Rouge‘. It’s just a shame they have to mess things up by surrounding these nuggets of goodness with more bland hardcore and Adebisi-style widdly bits.
It’s only in the album’s latter half that We Come In Pieces start sounding like their own band (quite literally, in fact – it’s a plus that they’re bold enough to sing in their own accents). Yet that’s when some other deficiencies become more obvious. ‘Kim Deal or No Deal‘ is a case in point: no doubt a crowd-pleasing anthem that’s rousing and heartfelt in a live setting, on record it’s curiously flat; exuberant but emotionless. Ditto their self-described tribute to the Galway hardcore scene ‘GHND‘, which sounds like it has energy, but doesn’t feel like it.
None of this is helped by a two-dimensional production by Ciaran Culhane that puts too much separation between the vocals and instruments, the former floating weirdly above a flattened background of the latter. At times it sounds like Kieran Hayes is singing karaoke to his own band. That’s never a good look.
In the end, I’m left disappointed more than anything. The dudes can play, there’s no doubting that, and debut LP Before The Chains showed that the trio can write stronger material, and benefit from better production, so they have the promise. Alas, it’s a promise on which Night of the Living wholly fails to deliver.
Night of the Living is out now on Champion Edition.