Review: I Can Make a Mess – Growing In

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Holy shit, did that just come out of nowhere.

I Can Make a Mess has only really garnered the attention it deserves over the last few years. Originally a side project a decade ago for soft acoustic songs that wouldn’t fit in with the discography of a still young The Early November, Ace Enders’ other brainchild has evolved into something of almost equal importance to his main band.

I Can Makes a Mess really came to true fruition with 2010’s The World We Know, an inspired collective of acoustic pieces that still remains arguable the finest release of Enders’ career. The few releases since then have seen him experiment beyond acoustic songs to more pop ventures and more use of electric guitar, but never reach quite as high as The World We Know.

Growing In, yesterday’s surprise release, is one of Enders’ best albums under any of his many names. It’s the equivalent of Dashboard Confessional’s A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar; the legacy of ‘acoustic only’ is tossed aside for electric pop. Each song is remarkably and distinctly Ace Enders at his best. It sounds like he genuinely had fun recording these songs and it shows through the energetically playful  lyrics and the thrashing pop.

According to Enders’ Facebook, each song was written in 3-4 minutes sessions of whatever came to his head first in regards to the music and lyrics. You can hear the voice memo from his phone of the initial recordings spread throughout the tracks.

The most surprising aspect is that some of the songs weren’t saved as inclusion for The Early November’s next release or as a continuation of Ace Enders and a Million Different People, as ICMAM usually doesn’t jump this far into the ‘indie pop punk’ pool. The lightheartedness of the music mixed with the playful and deeper lyrics though maintain the energy that ICMAM was originally built for. The guitars chug along crisply, faintly reminiscent of Weezer’s Blue Album and The Get Up Kids’ pop punk structure, but distinctly Enders’ own chord progression. The production that Enders is known for makes the songs sound more hand crafted than most music.

Growing In also tests Enders’ vocal chords to the limits. Not only does he run rampant across the scales over the course of the album, but he jumps from shouts to soft growls to nearly spoken word. The crackle of his voice adds to the effect that you can hear him testing himself. As the sixth ICMAM album, he has rarely sounded better.

Lyrically, Enders is more comfortable than ever. Topics of past ICMAM songs are still here; debt, money, love songs and overcoming the odds are still the mainstays, but are much easier to access and toy around with. “Get Normal” sees Enders crooning and shouting against backing vocals of himself over memories reflecting on how little he used to know when compared to “the height of the rising sun” as he sings, “I’ve crossed too many sun faded lines that divided my road / That’s what I believed but I don’t believe in all that / My life is crowded with the broken back roads, you don’t know”.

“I’m the Man (Sarcasm)” is an amazing grunge pop song with hints of surf rock that has Enders following a corporate shill somewhere on the verge of a midlife crisis who has never really grown up. “I never start a day without a coffee in my hand, thirty-two ounces, now tell me who’s the man,” is the opening line before eventually finding his way to the thought of “Pimping three screens like I know I’m the man / We’re staying late to get the job done, some kid got the promotion that I really wanted.. Cool.”

“Deciduous” is a magnificent pop song torn from the pages of early 2000’s emo and contains perhaps the most personal lyrics Enders has ever penned, “I really wish that money went as far as love does, cuz then I’d be on my way / I really wish that love went as far as money does, cuz then I’d be okay / I’m a thirty-something musician having a problem of never ending wishing / But I hope one day my kids think I’m cool, didn’t sell the farm to be the mule / I’m a fool with no clue paying dues after dues after dues”.

Growing In is a near perfect blend of old school emo and pop while manifesting the skills Enders has acquired over the years. It pushes the boundaries of what previous I Can Make a Mess albums were and threatens at times to become more of a sequel to Ace Enders and A Million Different People than anything else, but it’s also a testament that ICMAM is meant to be versatile and whatever Ace Enders decides it will be. It’s one of the few albums that make me proud to be a fan when I hear it. I am honestly a bit biased when it comes to Ace Enders’ music, but this is without a doubt one of the best releases of the year.

5/5

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and once dropped a Popsicle in front of Ace Enders and didn’t know what to do. Ace watched me cover it awkwardly with my foot instead of grabbing a towel like an adult and then gain the ability to only say weird, awkward things to him whenever I’ve seen him at tours years later. I suck on every level mankind has managed to unearth.

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