Civilian - Should This Noose Unloosen (Cover Artwork)


Should This Noose Unloosen (2012)


Nearly a year ago, the band formerly known as Alexander ran into a bit of an identity crisis. After operating under the moniker of singer/songwriter Ryan Alexander's family name for half a decade, Alex Ebert, of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, announced a solo project under the same title. Instantly more popular, he laid claim to the name, leaving the original, toured and recorded Alexander to take the high road, finding a new name and in the process, singularity. Referred to now as Civilian, comes a refined sound, more raw than the indie pop inflections of their former selves, and darker in tonality and lyrical content.

Although topics onerous and explicitly pointed are often at the forefront of the record, it's the lithe instrumentation behind the words that show the greatest progression and distinction from the broader indie landscape. On "Everybody's Hungry," the slow starting but deliberate album opener, we're introduced to Alexander's unassuming candor as he expertly describes what society describes as the perfect woman–"God blessed with large breasts, straight teeth and light skin / Every demographic wants what you have." Carrying these generalizations is a trade-off between both guitars that establishes a driving groove while the song teeters on the precipice of a mid-tempo breakdown.

"Bottom Dollar" and "Don't Lose Heart" follow with a one-two salvo of similar timbre, this time showcasing a tight rhythm section, extremely precise in delivery, yet uniquely styled and bombastic in a way that does not sound hyper produced or pitched. And if the explosive nature of these two songs leave no question that Should This Noose Unloosen is an indie rock record through and through, then "James Kent" features a side of Civilian that emphasizes ruminative storytelling over pure vigor. The track graphically describes a crushing narrative involving a homeless man of the song's namesake and his death as he lays his head on the local train tracks. The subsequent funeral and a scathing critique of those who never took the time to help follows: "I find it odd that in death / They circle you with flowers and they tuck you in bed / Where they tell you that they loved you / But for 25 years you slept under a bridge / Where you were dying of AIDS and smoking a crack pipe."

Over the course of 12 songs and a 54-minute duration, Should This Noose Unloosen proves that Civilian can hold their own with the heavyweights of indie rock. With such a grandiose and earnest collection of songs combining prose well beyond their years, one can only imagine what this band will achieve on future releases.