The Flatliners - Inviting Light (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Flatliners

Inviting Light (2017)

Rise records / Dine alone

Fifteen years into their career, The Flatliners have changed things up a number of times, long ago abandoning the hardcore ska of their youth. Inviting Light, however, is unlike anything they’ve done before. While the new album drifts into uncharted territory for one of Canada’s best exports, it also preserves the band’s quintessential elements. The change will surely upset some older fans, but the songwriting here, albeit slower and more accessible, proves better than ever.

From the opening of “Mammals,” The Flatliners’s define the new direction. The notes loom, weighing heavily until the track bursts open and a more upbeat atmosphere kicks in. Their defeated brand of melodic punk exists on tracks like “Infinite Wisdom,” “Nicotine Lips” and Nerves holdover “Hang My Head.” But where before they embraced melody, now they bathe in it. The Flatliners let the songs build and the bridges wander. Chris Cresswell’s vocals are cleaner and the guitar tones softer. The same sentiments filter through a fresh lens. On album highlight “Indoors,” Scott Brigham riffs even on a midtempo song. Paul Ramirez’s drums on “Sympathy Vote” offer a strong backbone even if not as frantic. These changes make the jump from Fat Wreck seem necessary, particularly on the back-to-back “Unconditional Love” and “Burn Out Again.” Both comfortably linger on each syllable and chord, wanting the feelings to resonate.

Luckily that’s something Cresswell does extremely well. His impeccable songwriting remains intact. Just the title “Human Party Trick” evokes a powerful, clear image. A lyric like "I'm personifying the wedding speech," delivers imagery that few rival. On “Infinite Wisdom,” his signature growl hits harder because of its infrequency. This allows big swings like the acoustic based, five-minute “Chameleon Skin”—the band’s most noticeable departure—to fully soak in his raw emotional state.

The band wanted Inviting Light to be more positive in a world of negativity. Closer “No Roads” and its anthemic sentiment of, “It’s worth it,” represents that dynamic beautifully. For a record as ridden with anxiety as this, it’s impressive the confidence comes out victorious. Cresswell vents but the music is his escape, lifting him and pushing him forward. The Flatliners have spent the last four years embracing their bruises and now are stronger for it.