As It Is are one of the treasures of new-wave pop punk. While they could have easily become just another New Found Glory clone, they have spent their career expanding their sound with each album, as though they are trying to find the essence of pop punk itself. The Great Depression, though, sounds like a true sequel to the band’s sophomore effort, Okay. Where that album used pop to show how the outside world sees someone suffering within themselves, The Great Depression relies on hard rock to show how someone suffering sees the outside world.
The Great Depression is an aggressive album that doesn’t try to solve the issue of depression. Instead, it takes aim at society’s quiet acceptance while attempting to remove the romanticism of the idea in general (“I know this isn’t something you’re going to like to hear / Which is exactly why you need to hear this”). As It Is borrows liberally from the emo bands of the mid-2000’s, even going so far as to carry a very deliberate My Chemical Romance homage in their recent music videos.
Guitarist Benjamin Langford-Biss’s guitarwork utterly changes gears for this album. He delves much deeper into a new, harder sounds that significantly expands the band’s range (“The Reaper”, “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)”). Bassist Alistair Testo builds a steady background of rough pop that bounces the tracks along despite how hard the guitars get. However, drummer Patrick Foley may be the hidden MVP of the album. His walls of percussion are extravagantly diverse, as though he was working overtime to impress guest vocalist Aaron Gillespie (“The Reaper”).
Likewise, vocalist Patty Walters gives a career best performance. He is pitch perfect for a pop record, but it’s the hints of screaming that make the performance. It adds an edge and urgency that matches the harsh aesthetic.
The Great Depression is a concept album that follows a character who personifies depression as either God or death itself. Either way, this being represents a society that is impartial or unconcerned with the struggles of mental illness. It is an element that adds chaos to someone who just strives to find peace.
Some songs take on depression in general, such as, “The Stigma (Boys Don’t Cry)”, as Walters sings, “I see a pain behind your eyes / I know you feel it everyday / It’s like a light that slowly dies / But it’s better not to say / It’s better not to say such things out loud”.
Other songs address this entity cursing the narrator’s life directly. During “The Reaper”, Walters sings, “I used to sing his praise / But now there’s no sweetness in his name / He’s been dying to show me to my grave”. “The Two Tongues (Screaming Salvation)” bargains with the entity for a normal life. “I tell him there’s no chance, I’m not giving him my soul / It doesn’t feel it now but I know my heart is full / I’m not sure he’s right, but I’m not sure he’s wrong / I’m just desperate to belong”.
Closing track, “The End.” pleads for the outside world to understand without being playful. “Because I don’t need you to see this and I don’t want you to feel this / But I only have so much spark to offer in all of this darkness and I screamed for you until the day I gave up and lost my voice”.
The Great Depression is a leap of faith for As It Is. It is drastically different from their past work and addresses similar topics as their previous album from a whole new angle. It is arguably the band’s best work to date, and their most daring. As It Is could simply release pop record after pop record. Instead, they are proving themselves some of the most capable musicians of their generation.
by Kyle Schultz