Review: As It Is – The Great Depression

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.

You can buy or stream The Great Depression on Apple Music.

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.

4/5

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 just spilled a tray of tater tots. He is essentially a wobbly toddler that pays rent. Pro Tip: Cats don’t eat floor tots.

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Podcast: As It Is Talks About “The Great Depression”

For our latest podcast episode, we caught up with Patty Walters and Benjamin Langford-Biss of As It Is at Warped Tour to discuss their upcoming album, The Great Depression. During the conversation, the two share their approach to discussing mental health and depression and how the subjectivity of art prevents it from offering firm answers. Instead, As It Is aims to have a more honest and open dialogue about the challenges of mental health and much more. The band also talks about their new look and sound and how they approached the writing process for their third album. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are your expectations for the new As It Is album? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: As It Is – Okay.

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As It Is is a band that caught me out of absolutely nowhere – I loved their debut album an obscene amount. Their sophomore effort, Okay. is sure to be at least partially divisive – on my first listen, my first thought was “what an appropriate title.” However, after a couple of listens and delving deeper into the lyrics, there is a true sadness and battle with oneself that permeates through the indulgently poppy guitars that is genuinely great.

You can buy okay. on iTunes.

You can buy okay. on iTunes.

Okay. highlights the struggles of battling with yourself and the world around you, attempting to take it in stride even though things may seem progressively worse and there may not be a solution in the foreseeable future. Perhaps the most poignant lyric on the album in regards to this is on the title track, when vocalist Patty Walters whispers, “So keep your ‘It’ll get better’s’ and I’ll keep my ‘I’ll be just fine’s'”.

For a sophomore effort, Okay. sounds great. The rhythm guitar is hard and melodic, while the lead finds incredibly catchy hooks that lead into the song and carry it through each chorus. Drummer Patrick Foley truly captured my attention multiple times, finding the perfect balance between anarchic punk and somber (“Austen”). The album is seeping with melody.

Behind the pop though, lie some heavy subjects, namely the feeling of depression and making attempts to come to terms with it even though there isn’t a way out. Opening track “Pretty Little Distance” hides the thesis behind the glam pop, but where the message shines the brightest is a trilogy of songs that reference it directly, “Okay”, “No Way Out” and “Until I Return”. The songs are true pop punk gems that cultivate the sentiment of admitting there’s a problem (“A perfect stranger, she puts pen to paper, consoling in her sleep / And how foreign it felt when I opened my mouth / And heard the truth come out”) and the futile issue to overcome.

“No Way Out” is a rager of a song, circling the idea of feeling trapped in the same problem in your own head. However, it features a moment of what seems like true vulnerability, featuring Walters in the bridge speaking plainly about the depths of his problems before screaming in defiance and frustration.

Although “Until I Return” allows the idea of healing as Walters vibrantly sings behind a ravage guitar riff, “I promise I’ll fight but I can’t promise that I’ll be fine / You treated the damage that I let reside in my fragile mind / With stitches and bandage / You took the fault of my scars and you made it ours”, it precedes the haunting finale. After battling these demons, the album’s final song is “Still Remembering”, a song about saying goodbye to a lover so soon after the song of redemption and strength.

Amidst these demons are others, that are equally heartbreaking in their own way. “Hey Rachel” is a song to a younger sister, apologizing years after the fact for being a shitty brother, while “Austen” is a slow-burn of watching someone lay in their deathbed (“I know you’re tired, but please don’t sleep/ Cause I can’t bear to let you leave”). Don’t forget the crush of watching parents divorce on “Curtains Close”.

It’s unfortunate that a record that delves so deeply into these heavy issues has flaws that took me out of the experience. In what is either a compliment or a slam (depending on how you view it), this is what All Time Low’s Dirty Work should have sounded like. It mostly pertains to the first half, but it suffers some of the same problems as Dirty Work. The album is arguably overproduced and polished, eliminating some of the grit and energy that made me love the band.

Instead, it delves headfirst into pop sonically that treads a dangerous line of sometimes sounding generic. No matter how I go about it, I often times feel like I’ve heard these songs elsewhere. However, the sound and atmosphere of the record begins to diverge near the halfway point, when the band truly steps out of their comfort zone musically (“Soap”, “Austen”).

Although Okay. is unapologetically poppy and uplifting in sound, the lyrical content is true bummer (lol). What I appreciate about the album is that it doesn’t have any half-ass answers, just honest frustration and the horrors of life that help lead someone to these pits of despair… and then leaves the listener there.

The biggest issue with Okay. is that it begins sounding like any other pop punk record, as it takes some time to find the real meat of the album. While there are good concepts and ideas permeating, something just feels off throughout, leaving a record that is as addicting as it is bland. It’s not nearly enough to dissuade my love for the group, nor can I precisely place my finger on the issue, but I’m glad for the chance to hear it.

3.5/5

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 just realized that their name, As It Is, kind of symbolizes what it’s like to live with this shit. It just is… thinking too much into it? Definitely. Awake at 1 am on a work night because I downed too much coffee during the afternoon? You betcha.

As It Is Releases New Song “Pretty Little Distance”

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There’s still plenty of time before As It Is releases their sophomore album okay. on January 20, 2017. That hasn’t stopped the band from releasing two singles from the forthcoming record. The British pop punk act ups the ante once again with their latest song, “Pretty Little Distance”, which can be heard below:

For a band that raised more than a few eyebrows with their debut album Never Happy, Ever After just last year, As It Is sound like they’re ready to make the leap. On this latest track, the band seems to channel early Fall Out Boy with witty lyrics, spot on vocal melodies from Patty Walters, and even a nice little guitar solo for good measure.

There’s still three months until okay. releases on Fearless Records, but the expectations are certainly building. With another solid record, As It Is could very well be the new face of pop punk by next summer.

What are your thoughts on the two songs released thus far? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck