There are several terms that get thrown around in music description that bother me. These are usually words that have no hard and fast meaning. Phrases like "earthy" and "organic" come to mind. Perhaps the top of this list of peeves is the term "urgent." Music that is described as "urgent" doesn't have a set list of qualifications. It can be fast or slow. Loud or quiet. Popular or not. A band can be playing 1,000 bpm but it doesn't mean it's going to sound "urgent." The term "urgent" in music has become like the popular definition of pornography, meaning you know it when you see/hear it. So, it is no small exaggeration to say it pains me that "urgent" is the best way I can describe Mouthbreather's Kiss of Death debut full-length, Thank You for Your Patience.
Mouthbreather hail from Richmond, Virgina (one of the few geographic locations that actually doubles as a musical description), and formed from the ashes of Wow, Owls! and the Setup. "But what would you say on a "RIYL" sticker for their album?" What a god-awful question! All right lazy listener, if you need the comparison, I'd say it's one part Landmines, one part Young Livers and a dash of Avail.
"What the hell does that sound like?" That's what I was getting to. The band clearly has a grasp of prior Richmond bands and hardcore in general. That doesn't necessarily make it hardcore, though. There are plenty of times where Mouthbreather shows they know how to open up and just rip a song apart. Album opener, "The Night That Richmond Died" moves at such a pace that lead vocalist John Martin can barely seem to get all the words out (a pattern that continues though several songs on the album). However, there are points on the album where the band slows things down and really get an opportunity to build some atmosphere with the music. On "When a Chemist Dies, Barium," Mouthbreather slow everything down and the guitarists split duties between playing melody and noodling-out riffs, allowing the song to take a much darker feel than most of the album, displaying more of a sense of sadness than the typical frustration shown in the rest of the album.
"So what makes it 'urgent'?" Damn, you're full of annoying questions, aren't you? The urgency in Thank You is twofold, for me. The first part is musically. Mouthbreather seems to keep the pace on every song moving briskly by never managing to play anything long enough to get repetitive. As soon as you've become familiar and comfortable with a melody or beat, they switch it up and move on in the song, leaving your interest peaked by where they're going next. While it's far from the ever-changing rhythms or riffs you'll see in bands who are hailed for 70-minute jam sessions, it is enough to keep the album moving and fresh and before you know it the 33 minutes have passed and you're back at the start.
"You said it was twofold." Quit interrupting, and that wasn't even a question. The second part of the album that generates the urgency are the combo of John Martin's lyrics and vocal delivery. Lyrically, Martin has a knack for creating powerful phrases that are instantly memorable after the first listen and that stick with you after the album is off. After the first spin I instantly remembered "That's why they said that 'Jesus wept.' He wanted to die in his sleep" from "Daily Bread" or "It's winter in this town's soul. It's winter year 'round in this home" from "The Nazarene." The images Martin utilizes are less concerned with subtlety and nuances and more concerned with getting across the message he's trying to convey at all costs. Martin's delivery matches his content incredibly well. Gruff and shouting, Martin works to keep pace with the feverish pace the rest of Mouthbreather hammers out across the 10-song album. Oftentimes, he skips words or whole phrases, making for an odd experience, at times, if you're reading along. Overall, the syncing of the vocals and the music are what create the overall urgency in Thank You for Your Patience.
That's the best I'm going to be able to come up with for what makes an "urgent" album. That isn't to say there aren't issues with the album; the production can be a bit muddy and there seem to be gaps between every song, even the ones that sound like they flow together. Still, at the end of the album you're not thinking, "That could have been clearer" but rather, "Damn, those guys really had something to say." Mouthbreather had 33 minutes to say exactly what they needed to say and they didn't waste a single second.