the last place you look, Rip It Out
Ah, anticipation; sometimes, I hate you, when you string me along and make me wait eagerly for something that turns out to not be very good at all. But then sometimes, just sometimes, you deliver.
It’s a little odd to be listening now to the cleaned-up, finished version of the last place you look’s latest EP, Rip It Out, because it feels like I’ve been listening to these songs for a few years now. And not to toot my own horn unnecessarily but, well, I have: the guys in the band were kind enough to hand off early versions of a handful of the songs on here (“Rip It Out,” “Ebb and Flow,” and “Sexytime,” specifically) waaaaay back in 2011, and I’ve been waiting in frantic desperation for the music to finally see the light of day.
And here we are, with the limited-edition, hand-painted copy of the EP right here in my hands and headphones, and yeah, I’m pretty damn happy. Lead track “Rip It Out” is awesomely bombastic and arena-sized, with guitars that roar and thunder while holding tight to that gorgeous melody, and downshifts for truly thoughtful, almost resigned-sounding verses in-between. It’s a gem of a song, and one of the best damn rock songs I’ve heard in the past year, hands down, a ranking that’s helped along by the fact that I’m apparently literally incapable of not singing/bellowing along when it comes on in the car.
Later in the EP, “Awake” rides a similar line, balancing delicate emo-boy sweetness with just the right amount of heaviness; at the start, you’re liable to think the band’s morphed into some burly-voiced version of The Killers, but then the TLPYL guys kick things into gear to plaintively, desperately ask what went wrong, and you just want to close your eyes and punch the sky in time with new-ish drummer Mikey Garcia (who replaced previous drummer Andy Moths after the release of 2009’s stellar See The Light Inside You).
“Quagmire,” on the other hand, is sharp-edged and menacing, with verses that skitter and stutter like prog-metal and the occasional throwback to Nava’s old-school, gruff, quasi-hardcore vocals (see the band’s first EP, The Lies We Tell Ourselves). It’s ferocious and raw, despite a surprising beds of synths anchoring the whole thing, and probably the closest thing on here to the heavier side of See The Light Inside You, which is no bad thing if you ask me.
The other truly “heavy” track here is “Sexytime,” which is my least-favorite out of the bunch but still good on its own, a burly, growling chunk of alt-rock that sees
It’s great to see the band more fully balancing the heavy and gentle sides of its musical personality, honestly; on See The Light, the last place you look guys seemed torn between the hardcore fury of their early stuff and the newer, more melodic, more fragile songs, but with Rip It Out, they’ve erased the line completely and just gone for it, not giving a damn whether or it works for anybody but them. And yet, it does, on tracks like the aforementioned “Awake” and on the gentle, fragile “Ebb and Flow,” which is quiet but still powerful, with warm, fingerpicked acoustic guitars that slowly give way to those loud, distorted guitars.
Finally, there’s the cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.” First of all: I know. I know, believe me. Hell, when I last saw the place you look play, back in December at the band’s annual holiday show, a friend who was at a show next door warned me that the bigger-name band playing over there (who shall go unnamed) was making snarky remarks about hearing somebody run through this cover during their soundcheck. Even loving this band as much as I do, I myself inwardly cringed and chuckled nervously when they played it live.
But y’know what? Fuck it; this works. the last place you look takes what initially appears to be a fairly meh pop song and makes it into something else entirely, stripping away the popstar stupidity and tabloid crap to get at a decently melancholy tune beneath. This version manages to explode out of the speakers with a resigned, still-disbelieving bitterness that’s more real and full of honest-to-God pain than anything Cyrus has ever done, and yes, it’s awesome. If you didn’t already know, “oh, that’s that Miley Cyrus song,” you’d have no idea whatsoever, and you’d be left on the floor — like I am — with your mouth wide open, completely stunned.
Where See The Light Inside You was the sound of a band in transition, a band trying something new that they weren’t absolutely sure would work, Rip It Out is the sound of a band that finally — finally — knows exactly who they are and what they’re capable of. And it’s awesome to witness.
Guys? You did it. Holy freaking crap, you did it. Now please, please, promise me you won’t ever stop. Okay?