Bitter Branches - Your Neighbors Are Failures (Cover Artwork)

Bitter Branches

Your Neighbors Are Failures (2022)

Equal Vision Records

The world is kind of shit right now. After a two and a half year collective stillness, all who survived are now emerging in fits and starts. Fits and starts punctuated by vast frustrations, collective trauma, and a new relationship with the self brough on by how deep the muck has got. There is no normal, no new normal, no back to normal, just a lot of anger in all directions. That’s Bitter Branches. Instantly with opening track “Along Came A Bastard,” the band dictates to the listener this is not going to be a pleasant experience. Cascading from outward aggression to inward torment, Bitter Branches return exploring those same fits and starts we’re all experiencing with the appropriately titled Your Neighbors Are Failures.

This album is depressing. I’m not talking about depressing in a bad way, but in a way you can feel in your bones throughout its first three songs. The five minute “The Man Who Never Cries” is relentless. It sounds like emerging from a deep muck that drips off slowly, painfully gripping at pieces of the old away and revealing fresh new skin burning from the air around it. Bitter Branches play post-hardcore that leans in as heavily as possible into the post- and hardcore combinations of the genre. A collaboration of players from various heavy bands like Deadguy, Lighten Up, and Calvary, Bitter Branches has all that history yet steeped in modern rage.

The anger contained within Your Neighbors Are Failures is directed everywhere. It uniquely matches the choppy guitars that mask small grooves in the bass and drums. It feels like it could tornado into any spectrum of explosive rock. “Monsters Among Us” shows how this dynamic works lyrically as well. Calling back to the title of the album, the song blurs the line between commentary on the self and society. Where do monsters exist? Am I the monster? The song ends with the lines, “Monsters are real / Just look to your left / Just look to your right / Just say “Hi” to your neighbor.” They drip with paranoia. You are someone’s neighbor. Vocalist Kevin Sommerville’s voice fits gruffly between spoken word poetry and hardcore energy. It’s manic and adds additional dimensions to the lyrics when you aren’t quite sure just who he’s spitting towards.

What really elevates Your Neighbors Are Failures is the playing. You can tell the band is drawing from early Dischord post-punk, but played by individuals who helped define its aftermath. It allows the songs to do more than just shift dynamically amongst themselves, but really bring rock moments to a genre that can sometimes be intentionally uninviting. Closer “Show Me Yours” opens with an explosion only to temper into embers before catching fire in its closing minute again.

Your Neighbors Are Failures is filled with starts. Filled with fits. It’s tempered by its trauma but enraged at its surroundings. It captures a 2022 world where we are all pissed off and rightfully so. It’s a rare album made by scene veterans that feels very relevant.