As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "We change, whether we like it or not." In this case, I assume that by the first "we" he also meant "our favourite bands."
All of you who expect a punk band--a living organism comprised of living organisms--to stay exactly the same over long periods of time are kidding yourselves. Some do it, sure. But that's not art--that's a business model. Picasso went through periods both Blue and Rose in a five-year span. Why anyone would want Crime in Stereo to put out Explosives and the Will to Use Them 2.0 now, in 2010, is beyond me, though I know that some of you must harbour such a desire in your twisted little hearts. In any case, some punk bands are more into change than others (Propagandhi, Thrice, Brand New, I'm looking at you guys) and CIS, if their fourth full-length, I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone, is anything to go on, is another band in that vein.
The bulk of the work is done already, of course. 2007's fabulous Is Dead was a reasonably radical break from their previous sound (and I'm not just talking about the dance beats in "Small Skeletal")--a much more drastic departure from the very solid but relatively unambitious The Troubled Stateside than I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone is from Is Dead. Even so, there are still little shifts here, and seemingly all of them come at the expense of the more straightforward melodic hardcore sound found in the band's earliest work.
There's the sonic backmasking that goes on during the climax of "Drugwolf," undoubtedly one of the standout tracks on the album. There's the, dare I say it, Nirvana-esque chorus of first single "Not Dead." There's the acoustic sing-along of the heartrendingly beautiful "Young," and the re-worked "Dark Island City," a slowed-down, elongated and de-clawed version of the all-too-short little riffgasm that appeared on The Troubled Stateside, with just as many lyrics as the original.
The band has not, however, severed their ties with their older material. On Track 8, "Republica," Kristian Hallbert twice sings "I think I'm starting to--" and thanks to his vocal melody it's hard not to mentally finish his lines with "relate... / To these troubled states" (see Stateside closer "I, Stateside"). "Not Dead" seems as obvious a rebuttal to the title of their last album as is possible, and the aforementioned "Dark Island City" is a nod to--and update on--a song first released almost four years ago. The album's lyrics, which mix the personal with the political and the private with the public in as beautiful and haunting a fashion as I think I've seen anywhere in punk, are vintage Crime in Stereo in their tone, but seem a like definite improvement on past outings. These guys haven't forgotten their past, but they certainly aren't wallowing in it.
I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone is a very strong album, and there's likely enough melodic hardcore on it to satisfy even some of the old-school hxc die-hard fans. Nevertheless, it represents a slight evolution of their sound, and a clear step towards a more diverse sonic palette, not unlike Blacklisted's wonderfully varied 2009 full-length No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me (though both records feature, shall we say, unconventional album art...). If this is the new hardcore, sign me up for more.