In the recently founded world of new age emo, a band’s third release can expand or crumble their existing fan base. Jersey rockers Senses Fail, released their third album to deaf ears, ripping open their loyal fan base at the seams, while the *NSYNC of emo-pop, Fall Out Boy, have launched themselves into celebritydom, managing to hold onto their loyal fans and garnering new ones of all ages. Tooth and Nail Records’ pride and joy, Anberlin, are taking that third album gamble now with “Cities” and their first coast-to-coast headlining tour with the comeback kids themselves, Bayside.
Anberlin may be lumped in with the other pop driven emo bands of today, but “Cities” will acquire these boys the standout recognition they deserve. The album is not only catchy, but well planned out and composed in such a way that the listener can hear the heart and thought behind the record.
For “Cities,” Anberlin brought back their beloved producer from their previous albums, Aaron Sprinkle, the mastermind behind Emery and Acceptance’s latest releases, but decided to gather an entirely new team otherwise. “We worked with a different engineer and studio. We wanted to take the next step to achieve a much more mature and much more rock sounding record,” said Stephen Christian, frontman and half of the lyrical team in Anberlin.
Rock it is, for the first single “Godspeed” anyways. Disregarding the literal parallel of the intro “(Debut)” to the album’s title, complete with fading ambulance sirens, the first song sucks the listener into the band’s involuntary head bobbing guitar driven rock-pop anthem. The following track, and most likely the next single, “Adelaide” pays homage to one of the band’s favorite cities, Adelaide, Australia, in a girl-screwed-boy-over love song that reverts back to Anberlin’s pop roots from their first album, “Blueprints for the Black Market.”
On the track “Whisper & Clamor,” Christian uses the song as a vehicle to gripe about the level of apathy of this country. “I’m tried of the world, especially Americans in the West, complaining about the problems of the world but not doing anything about it; whether it’s the environment, the war, poverty, or the AIDS crisis in Africa, but nobody ever stands up and tries to change it. We’re much better crying about the problem, but not doing anything about it,” Christian said.
The real maturity of the album stems from the tracks that deviate from the band’s patented repetitive choruses and three chord guitars. On “There Is No Mathematics To Love and Loss” and “Reclusion” keys are intertwined with nonsensical lyrics and simple drum beats to create a futuristic trance rock sound reminiscent of Scary Kids, Scaring Kids.
The album climaxes during the finale, “(*Fin),” a nearly nine minute euphoric epic that connects with the listener, leaving them with thoughts of self-reflection and complacency. Christian delves deep into his tangled emotions on the track to question his relationship with a higher power, while a children’s chorus operatically chants the line “Patron Saint, are we all lost on you” in the background. “For me, this is my battle with God. That’s what the song’s about. I got into the ring with God and this is what I came up with. Obviously He won,” says Christian.
Just mere days after “Cities'” release, Anberlin headlined a sold-out show at the District’s famous 9:30 Club. Last Friday, the band took the stage to the tumultuous screams of pre-teens and their earplug-wearing parents. Opening with “Whisper & Clamor,” Anberlin had the crowd riled up and dancing on the floor, but their energy started to wane once they segued into the next song.
Playing old favorites like “Never Take Friendship Personal” and “Readyfuels” one could easily see the lack of energy behind the music. Maybe they were tired or their hearts just weren’t in it that night, but the band’s usual spastic chaotic stage presence was nowhere to be found. Bursts of Christian’s energy could be spotted during renditions of “Godspeed” and “Dismantle.Repair” and an acoustic version of the cutsey love song “The Unwinding Cable Car,” but overall the show was slightly boring at times. Why spend $17 on a ticket, when the album is cheaper and more captivating?
Despite a lackluster performance, Anberlin still possesses more potential than most of the fake rock that is continually released on a weekly basis. The band set out to make an entire album that can be played from start to finish, veering from the “singles generation” of today’s music. “Cities” is that accomplishment, from the haunting guitar opening to the final echoing feedback.