EVERY TIME I DIE- ‘Low Teens’
This might never have happened. Since 2014’s ‘From Parts Unknown’ the line-up and lives of Every Time I Die have been overturned. The band are used to upheaval of course, they’ve barely gone two years without changing at least one member, but real life kicked in their door with dumb, ugly force at the end of last year. Out on tour, frontman Keith Buckley was informed his wife was in hospital with a life-threatening pregnancy complication.
Mother and new daughter are, thankfully, doing fine but Buckley has made one thing brutally clear- if he had lost his family, he wouldn’t have hesitated to end his own life. That experience, and the clarity of thought that clearly came with it, is cut through the entirety of ‘Low Teens’. There is talk of birth, death, hospital rooms, and lines like “There’s a vacuum where the brightest future was, I’d better warm up my gun in case love is not enough”. Sure, some of Buckley’s usual lyrical wit is present too, there are sarcastic jabs at gluttony and religion, but mostly everything is very raw, very honest, and very serious.
It might just have inspired heightened precision in the New York outfit’s acerbic sound too. Ok, so if you know Every Time I Die then you know what to expect here- opener ‘Fear and Trembling’ starts with a squealing, drunken riff before closing like a steel trap, ‘Two Summers’ is built around one of those grungy, rolling riffs the band write so well, and the serpentine thrills (and kick ass Metallica reference) of ‘The Coin Has a Say’ are incredible, like the band’s entire back catalogue boiled down into 167 seconds of fury. But where they have previously exhibited a tendency to rush and clatter, to let chaos have its way with them instead of the other way around, now there is control.
In lesser hands (or even in Every Time I Die’s hands five years ago), the busy vocals and frantic drums of ‘Glitches’ might have turned a relentless grey but here they zing. And ‘C++’ manages to be both fast and unforgettable, rock’n’roll at light speed. I’m not asking Every Time I Die to stay catchy, but I am sure that they write better, more enduring songs when they leave even just a little space for themselves, and anyone else, to catch a breath.
Brendon Urie’s guest vocals add depth and sweetness to the apocalyptic rumble of ‘It Remembers’, the rolling waves of ‘Petal’ break just enough to allow its lyrical intensity to punch a lump in your throat, and while it feels like every track here has at least one special thing about it, ‘Map Change’ is the best of the lot. Hell, it might be the band’s best ever. Thanks to dynamic shifts in speed and intensity, stomping riff after stomping riff, and a genuinely catchy, almost epic chorus, it is destined to close Every Time I Die set lists for years to come.
‘Low Teens’ is terrific then. It’s a snapshot, hopefully, of a band at their darkest, driven by the saddest news, but determined to burn brighter than any punk band on their eighth album should. A new triumph from near death.