Downcast - I Saw Hell When I Was With You (Cover Artwork)


I Saw Hell When I Was With You (2022)


The UK hasn’t been hugely fertile in recent years when it comes to the melodic punk scene. With the rise of arch, post-punk peddlers such as Idles, Fontaines DC and Yard Act, the public’s focus has been far more at the end of the spectrum. As much as I enjoy some of those bands (Fontaines DC, particularly), I have a huge soft spot, and thus, a gaping void when it comes to British melodic punk that hasn’t been over-produced to the point of being indistinguishable from radio pop music. There are of course bands doing it, but rarely do I find much to be excited about. And I’m not asking for much. Give me a gruff vocal, a big chorus, a decent guitar tone, maybe some gang vocals, some forlorn subject matter and we’re away. I know it’s not as easy as all that, but once upon a time, you could hardly move for bands using that formula. I guess that’s why they’re in such short supply these days.

You might well have guessed by now, that Downcast wield just this arsenal of musical weapons. If I were to try and triangulate their sound, then maybe we’d be somewhere between The Wonder Years, Iron Chic and Red City Radio. I would say it’s propulsive, though not as much as Iron Chic, emotionally wrought, but not as much as The Wonder Years and well-produced yet with a slight rough edge, but few people are as gruff as Garrett, let’s be honest. But all of this ‘always the bridesmaid’ rhetoric is probably a bit unfair. Because when you pull together all of the strengths that Downcast have, then you get a band who wear their influences on their sleeve (Surely the “Clothes will smell of clothes for weeks” in Sylvan has to be a nod to The Wonder Years?), but don’t sound like any of those bands. Which has the curious result of making their music sound incredibly familiar without aping anyone in particular.

There are moments when the record feels like a snapshot unrequited teenage infatuation at Venice Beach, such is it’s sun-drenched yet lugubrious sound, but there are also moments when you can really feel the Bristol band’s own local experiences. I spend a bit of time in Bristol and some of the lyrics and tales recounted in this record feel almost tangible. The gleeful squalor, the regret of decisions made and the resultant impotent, ephemeral anger (“If U Want 2” being a good example). Something that did come to mind a few times as well, is mid-era Blink. Before the whole Travis Bar-core explosion that has blighted the more palatable and melodic end of the punk spectrum in recent years. Basically, it’s a really nice mid-point between pop punk, the kind of Fest fodder beer punk stuff that I love with all of my heart and emo/alt-rock. And herein lies the reason I’ve chosen to review this record; because I think a bunch of people who visit Punknews will dig this. I do, and I’m an orgcore lifer. I also love that they fluctuate from anthemic melancholy (“Catharsis”) to borderline hardcore breakdowns (the end of “Mistakes That I Have Made”). It’s not that often that I hear a British band who could be accused of taking cues directly Mayday Parade and Black Peaks (RIP) on the same record and I’m totally here for it. It might not be groundbreaking, but I know I’ll be listening to this throughout the year and god knows I’ll be heading for alive show. (If you’re reading this guys, hit me up with some dates!)