Self Defense Family - Try Me (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Self Defense Family

Try Me (2014)


Self Defense Family is a band that produces consistently perplexing music, which isn't a bad thing. They tow the lines between ambition and overzealous experimentation in a manner that fans of The Mars Volta, Troubled Coast, La Dispute and MewithoutYou would appreciate. Try Me represents their most distinct and comprehensive blend of spoken-word/post-rock that matches, but doesn't surpass any of their older material. That's a tall order given that they've always stuck to their guns and produced emotionally-laced, heart-driven and cathartic music that prods and provokes fans who are often left in wonder at their genre or genre-crossover style. Musically and stylistically, SDF seem to have found their definitive voice here.

What the album suffers from is simply too long a running time and an unbalanced structure that robs it of a half-star again. The first half is solid and standout in all ways possible but the second half meanders and drags on a bit. But the opening trio of tracks provide enough fodder to latch onto and absorb a la SDF's typical abstract art and musical perspective. "Tithe Pig" consists of torturous riffs and angst-ridden chords that label it with so much despair and cynicism. It's haunting and a perfect foil to "Nail House Music" which tonally sounds like a Rolling Stones tribute with its intricate guitarwork. Patrick Kindlon eschews all his idiosyncrasies and introverted poetry into tense spoken-word, more so than in the past, with the tracks laden with emotion and heavy honesty. It feels like his therapy and confessions.

The organic extension of SDF's haunting vibe careens even more with "Turn The Fan On". These three songs thus far collectively feel like a perfect summary of the band. The redacted pace, or lack thereof, suits well as the slow, flushed sounds come off rough, grainy and very unpolished, which complement Kindlon's somber disposition. Caroline Corrigan is a showstopper on "Mistress Appears At A Funeral" with a nice edgy post-punk, indie feel. It offsets the tone Kindlon sets but it's a welcome respite nonetheless.

But come tracks like "Angelique One" and "Angelique two", there's an assemblage of monotone that sinks in. Some tracks are a bit too long and no matter how much they prove a lyrical mirror to Kindlon's raw passion, the music suffers. Kindlon's low-intensity and low-brow deliveries feel like a forced calm here and a tad exhausting. His voice cracks like sobs at times to try to reel you back in to the sound established earlier but the project slightly slips away here. However, "Weird Fingering" returns with an accessible and captivating toll that returns the band to favor. It's a simple, instrumentally sound song that once more focusses on the band's strengths as the earlier songs show. Crisp drums, soothing basslines and powerful words.

Overall, this record will hold enormous weight as one of SDF's most massive outputs. The tracks that take away from the record aren't that bad. They're just misplaced in the order of things. A bit better rearranging and this'll be a big winner for fans of post-hardcore and die-hards of Kindlon's schemes. But there's no taking away that Try Me has enough legs to take acclaim as one of the records that will have you pressing repeat in the first half of 2014. It takes a bit of time to sink into and immerse fully, and this is a band you'll either love or hate, but this album is worth the gamble.