The Cast Before The Break: As Your Shoulders Turn On You

Written By:

Aidan Williamson

18th February 2008
At 16:17 GMT

2 comment(s)

The Libertines, Nirvana and Thursday are just three of the bands who despite their individual excellence give rise to nothing but trash flavoured trash in their wake.

Whereas we have the first two to thank for Arctic Monkeys, The Ordinary Boys and Nickelback, Thursday gave us wave after wave of pretenders to the throne who seem engaged in competition to see who can use the clean/sing - distorted/scream dynamic to its most ridiculous. Thankfully, New York's The Cast Before The Break are here to put a lid on all these shenanigans.

While they touch several similar bases to the aforementioned New Jersey post-hardcore act, TCBTB have more in common with the post-rock genre. Every track on "As Your Shoulders Turn On You" seems designed to work just as easily in instrumental form, and yet the lyrics are no afterthought. Their Palahniuk-esque ambivalence of hope and despair flow throughout every single syllable uttered. If vocals are not necessary or integral to the concept of the album, they are simply not used. Even if it results in asymmetrical song structures (such as on opening track "Onward Love")

Indeed, a lot of the album appears oddly structured upon first glance. With the one-two punch of the previously mentioned "Onward Love" and follow-up "From the Earth, At a Crossroad" it seems as though the album has peaked too early. But as is the sign with all great albums, as further listens are afforded, moments and songs that priorly passed by unnoticed become the ones you await eagerly, clearly shifting the highlights to the final act.

"From the Earth, At a Crossroad" is perhaps the most immediate. Commencing with a horseback ride to the scene of a 'pistols at dawn' old west duel, things are quickly launched to the present with unlikely yet permanently infectious groove-laden guitar riff which introduces a vocal call-to-feet of "How we dance! How we sing!". Not content with this change of pace, the boys give us one of the most breathtaking bridge sections known to mankind which sees the lone flouting of their screaming amnesty. Their restraint throughout the rest of the album makes this moment infinitely more special and capable of penetrating through to even the emotional core of a stone.

Surprisingly, for a band with the budget the size of their credit limit, no stop is left unpulled on this album. Pianos, violins and experimental electronica are inextricably fused to it's spine. Drums, scattered across the horizontal axis of sound, add immensely to the sense of paranoia and claustrophobia which permeates their sound. The central concept of the comatose man haunted by the opposing pull of revenge and love is made all the more resonant and impactive by these flourishes.

By the time the spine-tingling instrumental barrage of "Cerca Trova" (He who seeks, finds) gives way to the lamenting epilogue, it'll be difficult to pick one highlight from the crowd. We were well aware though, that we had just witnessed one of the most impressive and refreshing alternative rock albums since "Full Collapse" and "Relationship of Command".

For a behind the scenes look at the recording of "As Your Shoulders Turn On You" and an MP3 sample, check out our showcase.

Rating:  9 / 10

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