Independent Clauses | n. —unusual words about underappreciated music

After the Sirens-We Have No White Flags

February 1, 2006

afterthesirens

Band Name: After the Sirens

Album Name: We Have No White Flags

Best Element: Hybrid mix of indie-pop and hardcore
Genre: Indie-pop/hardcore
Website: www.afterthesirens.com

Label Name: Blue Duck Records (www.blueduckrecords.com)

Band E-mail: sirens@afterthesirens.com

I was extremely surprised when I heard After the Sirens’ album We Have No White Flags. Not content to excel at one genre, After the Sirens have crafted an album that combines two completely unrelated genres: indie-pop and hardcore. That’s right- After the Sirens actually fuses two of the most disparate genres I can think of. What’s amazing is that the sound actually works- every time. Whether it’s an indie-pop song that ratchets up to a burning hardcore epic (“Hemlock is the New Mistletoe”) or a post-hardcore song with indie-pop style melodies and harmonies (“Red Letter Ransom”, standout track “We Have No White Flags”), After the Sirens know how to write an amazing song.

It seems like the sound would fail because the genres are so distant from each other, but it succeeds due to the serious chops of the players. They can churn out brutal hardcore songs (title track “We Have No White Flags”) and straight indie-pop songs (the beautiful, Jimmy Eat World-ish “Arietta”) with the same amount of ease, so they upped the ante by combining both of these genres. The results of this fusion are their best songs: “We Have No White Flags” and “Caesura.” I’ll do a play-by-play of “Caesura” because it was the first track to really catch my attention.

“Caesura” starts off as a twinkly indie-pop song that calls up Death Cab for Cutie comparisons, but the solid, no-nonsense melodic style cuts off any comparisons to Ben Gibbard and co. The vocals here are stunning- full of clarity and earnestness tone, they cut through fake emotion straight to the heart of the matter. These highly expressive vocals continue to call while the song continues upwards in intensity to a dramatic rock explosion of quick-strummed guitars and huge chords. The intensity suddenly drops down to a Jimmy Eat World-esque melancholy as a section of extremely beautiful guitar work enters, then fades the song out- until the death metal scream of “FATHER” comes in. This kicks off just over a minute of pure, gut-wrenching hardcore. Segueing straight from an indie pop elegy into an abusive hardcore piece….who’s got guts to pull that off? The shock I had first time I heard it was somewhat akin to the impact of skydiving without a parachute.

That’s their signature: beautiful, twinkly guitar work and soft interactions that give way rather suddenly to violent explosions of sound. They’ve become the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of rock music: gentle and thoughtful one moment, rageful and violent the next. Yet both sides are treated with equal attention, resulting in a very clear establishment of their individual style.

Hybrids are a funny breed. Always talented, but often criminally unappreciated due to lack of a proper scene to fit in, hybrids often die on the vine, their genius untapped. I hope this will not be the case for After the Sirens, as its members have crafted one of the more intriguing hybrid sounds I’ve ever heard in We Have No White Flags.

-Stephen Carradini

independentclauses@Hotmail.com

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Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of bands that are trying to make the next step in their careers.

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