Square and Compass, Square and Compass EP
On their debut EP, Square and Compass drink deep, deep, deep from the Braid cup, which seems to’ve been left on the shelf by the bulk of today’s supposed “emo” bands. For Square and Compass, though, that’s a damn good thing, because it makes what they’re doing feel like it’s all new again — I adore those smart (hell, almost too smart) lyricism and sneakily-complex song structures when they’re married to those full, blast-your-eardrums (yet still seriously melodic) guitars. It’s just a combination that works, when done right, and I can’t help but love it.
Square and Compass, for their part, hit the “when done right” mark most of the time here. They start off strong with “Hamlet’s Conundrum” — which makes this the second review in a week referencing Shakespeare, which is a little strange — blazing through a solid, well-built chunk of emo-ish melodic post-punk with lots of odd corners and spiraling guitar lines, not to mention singer Thomas Heard’s earnestly tuneful bellow. Unfortunately, at only 2:33 (and with at least 45 seconds of that being odd radio noise and muttered spoken-word stuff), the song’s over almost before it’s begun.
But hey, that’s just fine when it’s followed up by five minutes’ worth of “Dying Days,” with those nicely roaring/chugging guitars and broken yet defiant, unbowed feel. There are parts in the song that make me think (favorably, mind you) of Jawbreaker’s Dear You, music-wise, particularly when it comes to the way the sound fills up the headphones, while Heard’s lyrics have a snarling, belligerent, almost Alkaline Trio-esque heart-on-sleeve vibe I can get behind.
Not everything’s roses, unfortunately, and the band takes what feels like — to me, at least — a fairly major misstep on “Core Exposure,” downshifting into slow-moving, nearly lounge-sounding rock with quasi-”deep” lyrics that make me twitch when the guitars raging over the top of ‘em. It does improve as it goes along, but by the end of the track I find myself wishing I could either go backwards to “Dying Days” or see what the hell’s next.
Ah, there we go. “How To Escape A Burdensome Routine Of Obsession, Despair And General Malaise” charges right back into the pit, full of bitterness and nihilistic abandon, all tempered by some more darned decent melodies, metal-tinged guitars, and close-to-breaking howled vocals. phew. That was close…
In the overview, I’m liking the hell out of three out of four of the tracks here, but I’ll probably be skipping the fourth any time I listen. And hey, three-quarters isn’t a bad score when it comes to an EP this size, especially considering how early the Square and Compass guys are into the life of the band; I predict a bright future if they can stick with what they do best. My advice for the future, guys? Screw the quiet, almost jazzy stuff and keep it all ripped-open and raw and loud, always. Do that, and you’re golden.