When you put your home address on your music blog alongside a note that says you sometimes review local and unsigned bands for websites, you expect to get a lot of junk in the mail. And the vast majority of it is just that -- junk. Sometimes junk comes in a nice press kit and sometimes it's junk from the moment you look at it.
But every so often you pop in an unassuming CD and it actually entices you to sit through a listening and then return to it again later. It's an especially nice surprise when you've never even heard the band's name before. Days is probably the most pleasing random press kit discovery I've made in a few months, and the fact that it just so happens to be an entire full-length is bonus for me and anyone else who happens to own the record.
Days is and isn't a hardcore band. The riffs, song structures, and vocal delivery should make them sound like a hardcore band. But they don't. There's an assembly method afoot here, as well as a production aesthetic, that makes it something else entirely-- something just as likely to alienate as to please someone for whom hardcore is a mainstay.
These are busy mixes. There are plenty of guitar parts, the bass is anything but static -- it wanders all over the fretboard, and the drums are completely frantic. The vocals teeter dangerously between effectively exaggerated sincerity and downright inconsistency.
All of this would, of course, make for something pretty standard to the genre were it not for the way the whole thing gels, for which we apparently have J. Robbins' capable production to thank. This record seems to intentionally pass up what audiophiles would call 'separation': a sound in which each instrument has its own niche in the mix and so everything pops out individually while playing at the same time. Instead, this record sounds more like it was recorded to tape (and it may have been) and bounced down a bunch of times in order to make room for more tracks. There's an enormously warm and organic quality to it. Every instrument competing for air, melting into a ball of sound, pushing forward relentlessly.
And so for the same reason I like it, a lot of people are going to dislike it. It's not straightforward enough to be hardcore, but too simple to be anything else. It's not aggressive enough to be truly heavy, but too forceful to be easily listened through. It's not hi-fi enough to immediately impress, but too big to play in the background. And your opinion of this record is probably going to live and die in the vocal delivery -- something I'm still not sure how I feel about. It certainly accomplishes that Wes Eisold of yore impact: There's no doubt the guy yelling feels every word he says. But, by the same token, it's overdone. There's almost a religious inattention to detail in the vocals that isn't really making anything more sincere -- it's just making it messy.
But if you're like me and find yourself on the fence about whether to like or discredit this record, turn to the lyrics first. They're not Shakespeare, but they're pretty compelling. At the very least, they're literate enough to get your head wrapped up in so that you can give the vocal performances the benefit of the doubt, and they contain some clever turns of phrase. The album's title track provides the clearest lyrical insight, which may actually be worth remembering after the CD's finished spinning: an introspective, emotionally intelligent account of moving across national borders and coming to understand one's own young, American identity in new contexts.