Alexisonfire - Watch Out! (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


Watch Out! (2004)

Equal Vision

Evolution. It's necessary for people to survive, and just as, if not more necessary for music, and musicians to survive. Nobody wants to see the same retread album done over and over. Bands cannot get away with long careers if they don't change their sound. Unless you're Bad Religion, then you've got a free pass in the inginuity department. But that's a story for another time. For the rest of the music world, a litte change goes a long way, and can add years onto your career. Alexisonfire jumped early to the opportunity to change, as their sophmore effort Watch Out! is a real departure from the self titled released a year prior.

Inevitably, when a band changes their sound, you'll have the people that love it, and the people that hate it, I reside in the former of the two, as I think this effort shows a real maturation in the band sound, and this album serves as a showcase in just what is to come from these 5 lads from St Catherines. Where the first album is all about showing just how fast they can play guitar, and just how loud they can scream, the songs on Watch Out! are crafted with longevity in mind. While the songs were a blast for a while, more than half the album lost it's appeal after repeated listens, and the production lacked severely. Both problems remedied this time around.

The album kicks off with the lone single so far, "Accidents." Starting off with a hard, but catchy riff, you're quickly thrown into a state of incessant foot-tapping, as lead singer George Logan's ear splitting screams come in, and I'm happy to report, they haven't lost a thing. Alexisonfire appear to be drawing from a lot of their roots this time around, with a chorus of 'whoa oh's' that would feel right at home on any old AFI or Bad Religion album. All of this melds right together, to create a perfect opener for this album. Alexisonfire have opted to also implement a lot of airy, atmospheric elements with this go-round. The third track, 'It Was Fear Of Myself That Made Me Odd' best exemplifies, this, as well as showing the new found role that singer/guitarist Dallas Green has. Where as in the last album, it appeared that Green's background vocals were always built around George's screaming, he really comes into his own here, and shares quite a bit of the vocal duties. As with last time, Alexisonfire have stayed away from the verse-chorus-verse structure, this song slowly builds into a frantic bit of screaming from George that splashes back in after some solid repeated drum fills. This is one of the most well constructed tracks on the album, and really goes to show what improvements these guys have made as songwriters.

As I said before, singer/guitarist Dallas Green has much more of a prominent role in the vocal department this time around. A mistake many melodic hardcore bands make, is having a backup singer who ruins songs, due to his voice being off key, or just not fitting, but Alexisonfire's case is quite the oppisite. Song four, 'Side Walk When She Walks' showcases Dallas' voice beautifully, as lead singer George does not appear on the track at all. It's one of the albums slower songs, but it fits in well with the overall arrangement. The next song, 'Hey, It's Your Funeral Mama' leads in with a killer guitar riff, and does not relent throughout, between George's screaming, and the rousing chorus filled in by Dallas. The song closes with more of those atmospheric moments spread throughout the album. One of the albums real standout tracks is 'White Devil,' and deals with the use of cocaine that's thought of as being all too cool. The lyrics clearly paint the picture of the problem: "Looks so good / Convulsing on the floor, ya sugar!" And the chorus "Look what you have become / White devil, white devil, white devil." It's clearly a more serious direction than the band has taken in the past. But it works for the band, never sounded forced.

The album closes just as strongly as it started, with the album's longest track, and another one that very much showcases Dallas Green's talents, 'Happiness By The Kilowatt.' It's a slow, driving track that comes in with George's screaming in certain parts, but when it does come in, it's perfectly placed. That's where Alexisonfire has improved the most. Their sing/scream dynamic is heads and shoulders above any band who's playing the same style. But back to the song, it's probably the most melodic song on Watch Out!, and the lyrics seem to beautifully accent the instrumentation, with the repated drum fill echoing perfectly in the background, it's a great way to top everything off.

There are bands doing similar things to Alexisonfire, yes, but don't be fooled by the imitations, this is the real thing. Every screamed vocal, and every single chord is dripping with passion and urgency, and it's all put together masterfully. The three vocalists (Rhythm guitarist Wade also does background vocals) all build off each other, and all make each other sound better than they could ever hope to alone. The guitars and atmospheric elements strike the perfect mood for the vocals, and just complete the package. These guys have improved leaps and bounds from their self titled effort, and I greatly look forward to seeing what the future holds for these five young Canadians.

As Logan screams in 'Get Fighted:' "Maybe the music isn't dead, maybe we all just forgot what it fucking sounded like." How true it is.