Album Review: Bitter Branches - Your Neighbors Are Failures
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, Bitter Branches may only be an EP and a couple of single releases into its career, but the sum of its parts has a vast history within the US Hardcore and Punk genres and boast one-time members of Dead Guy, Lifetime, No Escape and Paint It Black among others.
Released nearly two years ago, the five-track EP, This May Hurt a Bit, is an intensely chaotic, but somehow melodic and catchy piece of Hardcore and the band have maintained that passion into this debut full-length.
Incorporating elements from the Hardcore and Punk genres, but also mixing a hearty dose of Post-Hardcore and Noise Rock, Bitter Branches have created an edgy and challenging forty-minutes of music. Melody and convention take something of a backseat across Your Neighbors are Failures, in favour of a angular riffs and dissonant delivery.
From the outset, Bitter Branches leave the listener in no doubt the ride will be uncomfortable at times, as Along Came a Bastard opens with a dead-sounding drum and flattened guitar. The appropriately named Tim Singer starts as he means to go on with an ire-encrusted vocal. Across the whole of the album, Singer’s voice is confrontational, but not in an aggressive way, rather in a despairing soul-laid-bare manner that favours emotion over creating melodies.
Circus kicks in and seems richer and more sophisticated in its presentation, but those vocals still portray the personal breakdown that feels to be at the core of Your Neighbors are Failures. Plastic Tongues is a song simply dripping in pain and credit must be given to guitarists Matt Ryan and Kevin Sommerville for their six-string work on the whole of the record, as the manner with which they wring every emotion from instruments is admirable; whether that be the most accessible song on offer: Sorry, You’re Not a Winner, with its groove-laden hooks or the multifaceted Have You Tried Jogging? in which the track metamorphosises from a funk-infusion, to a bluesy-jam through to edgy, staccato riffing.
Not to be outdone, the rhythm section of ex-Walleye pounder, Jeff Tirabassi and bassist Brian Kantorek more than earn their respective corn by laying down a foundation upon which this madness can stand; the grooved-up riff of The Man Who Never Cries would be shorn of its impact were it not for the bouncing bassline.
As the album winds to its conclusion Bitter Branches presents two 70s inspired pieces in Monsters Among Us and Show Me Yours; these, along with the 70s Italian horror movie-influenced opening to Chewing on Vitamins only go to provide additional shades to an already impressive palette.
Your Neighbors are Failures is not an easy record to get to grips with, but worthwhile art is rarely immediate and often takes some effort from the beholder to engage with. The subject matter here is a hard, cruel reality and an inconvenient truth of modern life. Reading the track-listing, you cannot help but wonder if there isn’t something of the concept album about this record.