“War Pt. 1” starts Trenches off with a muted, demo-like, gruff tone. It brings to mind the image of a man at a bar, shouting his regrets, backed by a soft, strumming guitar. The raw, human emotion packed behind it, and the simplistic approach give it a character that seems to be setting the album up as a story; and a believable one at that. Proving my point, “Life at Home” has a similar sound, picking up where “Pt. 1” left off. It’s got a bit more energy packed into it, and, lyrically, has a metaphorical content that showcases the genius in Revisionist‘s storytelling abilities.
“Coasting” has a beautiful guitar melody that only aids in the realistic story behind the lyrics. A man filled with regret and desperation, a soldier filled with hope and resentment; the song acts as a pensive look at life, and those who get so stuck on something–an inward battle, an actual war, etc.–they approach life on autopilot, quite literally coasting. Documenting Mt. Everest-quality highs, and Mariana’s Trench lows, the track perfectly recreates the ups and downs of life, and will resonate beautifully with listeners. Mikey Burrell sings in earnest, the impact even greater with Gabe Delorme adding in backing vocals. “Lac L’Achigan” and the well-placed “Heavy Shoulders,” add a level of vulnerability that is starting to become even more evident as the album progresses. The more I listen, the more I realize Trenches seems to be about fighting the demons in our own minds; a war on depression, and the manic concept of starting off on top of the world and then struggling to get out of bed the next day. It’s a very human idea, as well as a very vulnerable place for a songwriter to go, regardless of whether it’s the story of a friend or the story of the songwriter themselves. It’s that kind of exploration, and that ability to tap into such a complex, sometimes frightening, place, that separates the artists from the imitators.
With tracks like “Recalibrate,” “Point Pleasant,” and “Quarter-Life Crisis,” Revisionist manages to push the boundaries every step of the way, opening up in a way that many artists would be scared to do. “Today, We Sleep!” is probably my favorite song on Trenches (unless you count “11th Hour,” the little interlude on the album). Yes, it could be just the beauty of the backing vocals or the harmonica, or the overall tone that the track inspired. But more than that, it’s the truth that is expressed in each and every line; touching on the truth of being listened to, but not heard. The collective quality of “we’re in this together,” resonates throughout every note, and is a perfect turning point for Trenches.
“Reconnaissance Mission” brings a feeling of hope and change to the otherwise bleak subject matter expressed on the album. It’s a turning point filled with determination to bring about change. With Thaddeus Eng on piano, there is a more lighthearted undertone (albeit, subtly); a tone that carries through to tracks like “11th Hour” or “Please Return To Battlefield” almost flawlessly.
As the title track, I had the highest expectations for “Trenches,” and Revisionist did not disappoint. The stark contrast between a relatively upbeat instrumental, and bittersweet lyrical content, brings the track to life, forming a full-fledged story in the linear notes (see also “Overthinking,” “Wake Me Up When March Ends”).
Trenches is book-ended by “War Pt. 1” and “War Pt. 2,” tying the album together in such a clever, continuous way, is brings everything full circle. Revisionist seem to take a shot at describing the human condition; the way we all battle it out in the trenches of life. The quality behind each song, especially from a lyrical perspective, brings the story to life. The gruff, unpolished sound makes Trenches stand out, although the muted quality is frustrating when you have to keep cranking the volume up. However, it does set the mood for the overall album, and give a more storytelling vibe. I would like to see Trenches performed live in its entirety, as that may provide an added level of context.
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[E/N 12/20/14: Trenches is available HERE.]