Whatever era or style of hardcore is in question, the fact of the matter is that the bands regarded as "the best" epitomized this concept in one way or another -- be it Black Flag's blunt hatred, Gorilla Biscuits' positivity and glee or Dag Nasty's sorrowful lyrics. Unfortunately, the conventional and predictable tendencies of the `90s straight-edge movement almost shattered the fragile foundation of fervent hardcore and replaced it with X'd up tough-guy agendas. However, hailing from the same state that was seemingly responsible, New York's Silent Majority scrounged the jagged shards left from what once defined the scene and produced the powerful mosaic Life of a Spectator.
With their only proper full length (the other, Based on a True Story, being a 7'' collection), the five-piece straps the listener into a dynamic roller-coaster ride through the moods and settings portrayed by frontman Tommy Corrigan. With "Windows Down," he desperately narrates an anecdote of a time spent painting names on the side of a train, singing "the names of the other ones have faded / so I touched them up the best I could / tried to make everything the way it was / but paint won't stick to the side of a rusted train / just like painting them in the rain"; it's almost like a metaphor for a bigger and somber picture. In the upbeat "Polar Bear Club," Corrigan declares his passion for music with the honest and concise verse "this is a lifestyle and not some silly trend / and years from now when they're all gone / I pray that we're still friends."
Lyrics aside, his vocal attack is rarely methodical; the screaming is performed less as a technique, but rather the inevitable product of emotional stress on the vocal cords. Polar Bear Club (make sense?) vocalist, Jimmy Stadt said it best: "[Tommy's] vocals aren't black and white." There's no polarization with his singing and screaming. There is a middle ground between the two that's just as potent.
Instrumentally, Silent Majority's stalwart rhythm section relies on heavy, melodic phrasing and with no hesitation to turn the distortion off and finger pick. "Cross Crowded Rooms" combines the defining elements of the band for their four-and-a-half-minute closer. Beginning with a short bass intro welcoming layers of guitars, it eventually builds until holding out the chords for Corrigan to yell "take this finger take this thumb / stretch them out to form a gun / point to the left side of my chest / just say bang / then it's done," paving way to the climactic finale.
Along with flattering production and guest vocals from Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo on "Popular Opinion," Life of a Spectator is a melodic hardcore masterpiece where "melodic" and "hardcore" are fused so effortlessly it appears to be a subconscious act rather than something done purposefully. Silent Majority, without a doubt, is genuine emotion.
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