Mico - Outside The Unbearable Grows (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review


Outside The Unbearable Grows (2003)

G7 Welcoming Committee

What makes Mico such a fascinating band to listen to is that they manage to use what's becoming a fairly standard set of tools to make something that sounds truly special. If you dissected Mico's songs into individual elements and listened to them out of context, you'd hear lots of the same features you hear in the burgeoning post-hardcore / emo scene. However Mico comes off sounding far, far more mature than their contemporaries. Despite the trend and potential financial rewards, they seem to have little interest in trying to appeal to that crowd.

Mico shares a quality with their neighbours the Weakerthans in that their lyrics walk a fine line between personal and political. While songs like "Your Everyday Apocalypse" and "The Great Achievement" are overtly political in their lyrics, they avoid sounding preachy. There's a sobering quality to them. For a band with a somewhat low profile and at times underwhelming presence in your stereo, it's amazing how inspiring some of these tracks really are.

Especially given the types of singing we get from other post-hardcore acts, John Stewart's vocals must be commended. They never drop their mature tone or break into clichéd lyrical gimmicks (shrieking, faux-vulnerability, etc). It says something about this genre when I'm proud to comment that Stewart can actually hold a tune. Instrumentally the band is very tight and more concerned with layered song compositions then letting any one musician break into a solo. I wouldn't be surprised if Mico's wrote collectively and didn't have a principle songwriter.

Quiet moments make the title track truly interesting as the band's three guitarists create an atmosphere that effortlessly shifts from dense to minimalist. To their credit the only comparison's I see to Mico's sound is in bands I greatly respect: "The Great Achievement" is on the same plane as Red Animal War. The spacey "Roads Travelled by Everyone" brings to mind Sparta. "Lina Tres" has shades of Hot Water Music.

Yet for all these similarities, Mico never sounds derivative. "Outside The Unbearable Grows" is an incredibly consistent and well-paced record. The track ordering creates a very effective flow between their rock songs and slower material. As Mico makes no obvious attempt to write pop-hooks into their songs, "Outside…" works far better as a complete album than it does in small doses. Throw on a pair of headphones and you can lose yourself in it.