Justin asked me to write a review for this album. I said, "I don't know if that's possible, because it'd be a one-line review." Of course, that isn't really suitable, so I'll write a few more paragraphs...but all you really need to know is this: If you have any care at all for your ears, and if you know what is good for you, you will pick up this record immediately.
I was introduced to Life at These Speeds from a friend who convinced me to go to one of their shows here in Portland, claiming that they were one of the best bands out there today. I had a bit of trouble believing this, seeing as how, well, people are always gloating about one band or another being so great. Maybe it was my skepticism that did the trick, but these dudes blew me away. I picked up the album after the show and it's been in heavy rotation since.
So, I'll try to keep my subjective praise to a minimum here, and we'll see how that goes. This album is honest. It's pure. It bleeds the same blood as older punk rock and early (real) emo acts. There's as much honest Washington, D.C. sound on this as there is emo (back when emo was good and pure) influence. This is post-punk as everything it should be. There are sing-alongs (the breakdown to "Submerge") and there are balls-to-the-wall rockouts (the ending of the anthemic "Blindfold King"). There is enough energy to be authentic, and enough melody to be dramatic without entering the fringe of pop cliché. The songs are lengthy -- some breaking the five-minute mark -- but from start to finish, they grab your attention and do not let go. This album takes the time to tease your ears but always delivers with an unbelievable punch.
Lately, it seems there's a whole lot of distraction in punk rock music -- extra guitars, that annoying keyboard trend, layers of vocals and a verbose and 'full' sound to just about everything. And I'm not even talking about all the totally disposable music that claims to be punk; even in recent releases from established acts like Rise Against, AFI, and Anti-Flag we're hearing bands become attached to the little things. Part of the reason I love this record so much is that it's got an extremely subtle simplicity to it that still manages to carry your ears through each note. These guys just know how to make music.
If I were to have criticisms of this record, it would simply be that when I saw them live, the sound was incredibly full and dynamic, while the production on the record doesn't really drive home that punch. It does have an extremely DIY sound to it -- which is in no way a bad thing -- but at some times the vocals can get lost and the drums don't hit as hard as they potentially could.
So, there you go. The best I can do as far as looking at this record objectively goes. Subjectively speaking, this thing blows my mind. This is powerful, honest music from a band I can only imagine is going to blow up much beyond this relatively remote Portland scene.