Let’s get the short version of the review out of the way first: Have you heard The Lost Broken Bones? Yes? Did you like it? No? Then you won’t like this. Yes? There is a decent chance you will enjoy this, although it won’t exactly be breaking new ground.
I haven’t followed Useless ID’s career too much, so I’m not sure when they changed from the pop-punk band on Kung Fu Records to this sound--which I guess would still be called pop-punk, but has a darker tone with more aggression. For anyone unfamiliar with this sound, it is kind of like if No Use for a Name’s Keep Them Confused wasn’t so mellow. Of course if my attempt (and probable failure) to describe Useless ID’s current noise isn’t sufficient, you can watch the music video for “Before It Kills.”
The album opens with “Live or Die,” and the song starts fairly heavily (in pop-punk terms) and Yotam Ben Horin starts singing with a nice melody before beginning to shout. This is somewhat of a “theme” on the album--lots of clean singing and lots of shouting. The track is fairly bass heavy, with lots of drums, and easy to dance to. That too is something that recurs throughout the album.
Following that is “Before It Kills” (see the video above) followed by “Normal With You,” which starts off very quiet and mellow before heavy drums come in. This is full on pop-punk. It is a similar sound to the previous tracks, but Horin’s vocals sound a bit whinier (when they aren’t being half-whispered to minimal music) and contains unmistakable relationship lyrics with lines like “Did he touch you the same way I did? / It doesn’t really make much sense / The demon is out and he took my life / So please bring me an exorcist.” The following track, “Erratic,” also begins quietly before building up, but still stays midtempo, also containing undeniably pop-punk territory lyrics like “I was a misfit in my youth.” “Manic Depression” starts off with a strong beat timed with “I’ve got the mad! Mad! Mad! Mad! Manic depression!” and, for a song about having manic depression, it is surprisingly light.
With “Sleeping with Knives,” we get back to the lyricism found on Lost Broken Bones--personal, but metaphorical. I think this is where Horin’s lyricism really shines with lines like “Outside your window, I’ve always been / I’m a vampire waiting to be led in.” However, musically, it is one of the less catchy songs. And, in this case, the lyrics are a bit immature and fall into the “revenge” category that you’d hope a 33-year-old man would be above.
The titular track is a sort of love song with a chorus of “I want your love / I want your pain / I want your symptoms” that is sung calmly and slowly in a way that sounds like music you would hear in a dream sequence in a movie or something. The rest of the lyrics are sung normally and without any shouting. The song starts off fairly mellow and while some drums drop in before any singing begins, it stays quiet. Continuing the theme of mental health is “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” which starts off heavy and then becomes mellow before getting back to the chorus (and opening lines) of “Your obsessive compulsive disorder creeps me out / I don’t want it.” However, digging deeper, the song sounds like a bitter song about an ex-girlfriend with lines like “Waiting for the perfect thrill / When you should stay the fuck away / Nothing seems to work / When the patient never takes her pills.”
While a pop-punk staple is songs about being dumped, “New Misery” shows an example of how to (mostly) do it right. With a very, very catchy chorus of “I’m sick of feeling like a battery / The way you charge me up The way you empty me.” Yes, a metaphor about being a battery is kind of corny, but it fully works in the song. The song is a bit more relatable than some of the others. “Waiting for an Accident” has the sound of an album closer and some more metaphorical lines like “Open the gates of Capricon / I’m walking into a field of thorns,” but all too specific, bitter lines like “So, how does it feel to be in his arms / While you’re falling asleep” still rear their ugly head. “Fear in the Mirror” is fairly repetitive, but perfectly adequate as one of the 12 tracks on the album. Album closer “Somewhere” has a slightly grandiose sound as Horen sings “I’m aware and it scares me inside” and the band bursts in to the previously very minimal song. But then it goes back to minimal. The song has a great tone and lyrics that almost make up for the petty, specific jabs throughout the rest of the album.
The main difference between 2008’s Bones and Symptoms is that, in, Symptoms, the lyrics are more direct. I can’t help but assume people will complain that it is too similar in sound, but I think they have managed to successfully do what many people seem to want from their favorite bands--the same album again. This is to say they didn’t record the same album again, but they recorded an album that isn’t doing anything new that might scare off fans of the previous album. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, there are too many bitter lines seemingly directed at a girl that left Horen that take me out of the songs. However, overall, the songs are enjoyable. The lines that make the listener sympathetic work drastically better than the ones that attempt to make the listener see this mystery woman as a bad person. Of course, the lyrics that are open to interpretation by the listener work best of all. This album probably isn’t going to be album of the year for most people, but it is perfectly sufficient to listen to if you just want to enjoy some music. And hopefully, now that Symptoms has been released, Horen can quit being consumed by this bad relationship. Until another Useless ID album gets released, I'd personally recommend The Lost Broken Bones.