Greys - Outer Heaven (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Outer Heaven (2016)

Carpark Records

Within the first ten seconds of Grey’s sophomore album Outer Heaven, you can tell everything has changed. When Shehzaad Jiwani’s voice enters, it feels though maybe you’ve played another band entirely. What a difference two years makes.

Jiwani said the mellow feel of first track “Cruelty” juxtaposes the song’s lyrical darkness. That theory can be applied to all of Outer Heaven. In a recent Spin article, Greys reference bands like Portishead, Talk Talk and the Chemical Brothers as inspiration, odd influences for a group that opened their last album with an ode to Guy Picciotto (a more accurate comparison). “Erosion,” for example, feels like an early emo breakup song. “If It’s All the Same to You” almost feels like Jane’s Addiction. Most of the songs could easily fit into the current emo resurgence. “No Star” may remind you of the band that released If Anything and the aggressive chant, “I hate it, I want it, I need it, I love it!” will keep the mosh pit satisfied, but don’t hold your breath for too much more of that. Because while some tracks have that old aggression—“Complaint Rock” and “In For a Penny”—most do not. That’s not to say the band don’t have anything to worry about.

While Greys choose a more melodic route, the darker theme here is the inability to relate. Whether that’s with race on “No Star” or mental illness on “Blown Out,” fitting in is not easy. “All my friends are going crazy, wonder if they feel the same as me” is yelled early in the album and the sentiment never leaves. Ironically, the closest Jiwani comes to fitting in is when he yells out, “My life’s a fucking Green Day song” because then, at least, twenty million other people comprehend.

The more they try to understand everyone else, the more the music fights back. The polished noise rock can be tamer, but it’s no less urgent. It’s as though they are explaining 'uncomfortable' to people who have never had the sensation. The final third’s harsh variations represent that and provide aural challenges, the kind meant for a patient listener. The same can be said for “Complaint Rock,” which starts aggressively, devolves into a post punk jam session, then comes back for one more violent chorus.

On Outer Heaven, Greys take a major leap. Like, major leap. This will surely alienate some fans that prefer their more straightforward approach, but ambition should be rewarded. They aim not only to challenge the norm but also figure it out. This is how they do it. While the album won’t answer many of the questions presented, it will unite people just as confused as they are.