Man, I hate overachievers. I say that with baited tongue, cause a lot of people consider me one of “those types,” but seriously. When there’s that one guy who tries everything and mostly succeeds at all of it, that hacks me off. Leave some space for the other guys, why don’t you? And so when an overachiever finds something that he utterly tanks at, everyone’s attention is diverted to that instead of the rest of the things that he’s great at. Ha.
Well, In Arcadia’s members are the overachievers of the music scene. By the sixth song on this album, these guys have displayed their chops in playing straight-up hardcore, punk-core, post-hardcore, pensive indie rock, and downtrodden, depressed indie rock. The amazing part is that they excel at most of it – the hardcore is blistering, the post-hardcore churns with an otherworldly passion, the pensive indie rock is genuinely creative, and the beautiful, downtrodden indie rock of “Fathom the Brig’uns” is simply instrumental perfection (yeah, they do kick in the post-hardcore at 2:00, but that’s pretty much perfect too). This band has chops out the wazoo, and they use them in every possible configuration they can think of.
Opener “Olson Twins Pornography” starts out with a brutal hardcore section before seguing into…punk-core? You bet. And while the sung vocals leave something to be desired (namely, melodies that don’t sound like old-school Brand New), the instruments infuse enough creativity into the song to manage to keep me listening. That’s the only real downfall on this album: the sung vocals. They just never achieve the emotional punch and clarity that the screamed vocals and the instruments capture. They come close on “Super Teeth,” but everywhere the vocals are a little bit cringe-inducing.
Other than the sung vocals, “Super Teeth” is another great example of the band’s attention-deficit sound. It starts out with a mega-fuzzed out indie-rock guitar line before dropping down to some seriously pensive indie rock, complete with intense drumming/pretty guitar contrast. Then the band ratchets up the indie rock again for a long, really cool outro.
“Megadeth Fiero” mashes a punk riff and an indie riff together for the lead riff, and “There’s No Crying in Baseball” unleashes some tasty hardcore bits on us. The Appleseed Cast would’ve loved to have written the intro to “Bitch, You Ain’t Got No Old Navy Jacket,” before In Arcadia turns the song into a post-hardcore barn-burner.
As for individual instruments, drummer Blake Thomas is to be highly commended; in the world of hardcore/post-hardcore, it’s extremely easy to ruin the sound by overpowering. He never overpowers the sound, but is always spot on with the insane beats (“Bitch, You Ain’t Got…”). He never abuses loudness, and he has aesthetics firmly in his pocket. If this CD is any indication of his prowess, I would not hesitate in declaring him one of the best drummers in indie rock today, not only because of his immense technical prowess (I swear, some of his 16th-note stuff is madness) but because he knows how to move a song forward without overshadowing the other work in a song. Anyone who can willingly take a backseat when they have that much talent to offer is simply incredible. Here’s to Blake Thomas.
So there you have it. If you like post-hardcore/hardcore/punk-core/indie rock, In Arcadia is your band. These guys have fused all these genres together into one huge quilt of awesomeness entitled If it Bleeds, We Can Kill It. Their work isn’t seamless yet, but with another album or two, these guys will be untouchable in the post-hardcore scene. Maybe I’m behind the curve in proclaiming In Arcadia, or maybe I’m ahead, but nevertheless, any band that can throw a piano into a post-hardcore album (“Domino, Motherfucker”) and not come off as overly sentimental is pretty ridiculously good.