It’s funny, but I looking back I can say with certainty that I never would’ve predicted where these guys ended up. Long, long ago, guitarist Richard Sherwood and vocalist Justin Nava used to be in a very cool, awesomely promising funk-rock band called Six West, who I caught & was blown away by at Robb Zipp’s long-gone GobbleStock festival.
The band imploded, as bands here tend to do, but Nava & Sherwood (and maybe one of the other members, too; not sure, sorry) moved on to the last place you look, doing a 180 from the funk stuff and diving headlong into thundering, raw-throated, guitar-heavy screamo.
And at first, I’ll admit, I wasn’t that into it. 2005’s The Lies We Tell Ourselves is/was decent but not great, with Nava going way too much of the throat-shredding stuff for my tastes and the songs all given snarky, post-ironic indie titles (like “How Do You Say Fuck Off in Russian”). The band’s 2009 followup full-length, See the Light Inside You, though, left me stunned, mouth open wide and brain trying to comprehend what just happened. Seriously, it immediately made my list of top albums of 2009, even right there at the start of the year.
In the years following Lies, the band managed to hone their sound to a perfectly-crafted sharpness, with Nava and backup vocalist/bassist Kevin Pool doing this incredible low-high harmony thing that’s defiant and beautiful at the same time, roaring, wall-of-rock guitars courtesy of Sherwood and second guitarist Derek Young, Andy Moths‘ tight, foot-stomping rhythms, awesomely anthemic melodies, and emo-esque lyricism that tries to do what all those old-school emo bands were doing, questioning why things are the way they are, getting out all that rage and pain, and holding out hope for something else. It’s still heavy as fuck, but not heavy for heavy’s sake — it’s heavy to make its point, which is the way it’s supposed to be. To my ears, anyway, TLPYL morphed from a garden-variety screamo band to one of the best, most well-thought-out emo bands I’ve heard in about a decade. No mean feat.
Happily, their live show measures up, as well. Nava roams the stage like a menacing, bearded lion in a sleeveless shirt, the guitarists spend practically half the set on top of the monitors, and they all bellow the lyrics like they really, truly believe in ’em. It makes for quite a spectacle, even in the downtempo, quieter moments (Light also incorporates some subtle electronic touches to good effect on tracks like album high mark “Band to Save Me”).
I think the only things the band has out so far are the two full-lengths, and while I’d be more than happy to put Light on endless repeat in the car, hell, I’ve got my fingers crossed that there’s more to come…
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