Boys Night Out - Trainwreck (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Boys Night Out

Trainwreck (2005)


There are a number of things that could be discussed in this opening paragraph. We could talk about how Boys Night Out may have binged on the scream-laced pop-punk trend on their debut full-length Make Yourself Sick, but it was widely agreed they were a cut (no pun intended) above the rest. We could talk about the idiocy and/or laziness surrounding the mainstream media's discussion of Green Day's American Idiot last year as if it really was the first concept album made in music since the Who's Tommy. We could talk about progression. Maturity. Musical stagnation. A lack thereof. While these are all certainly both refreshing and utterly stale topics depending on the perspective, Trainwreck is an album that requires about as much text as can be allotted for.

For starters, Trainwreck opts for more melodic pop-rock injected with post-hardcore flourishes and dream pop overtones as the vehicle for the conceptual narrative surrounding it, but with a fluid number of tempo, pace, and dynamic changes through and through. Written by guitarist Jeff Davis, each of the 12 tracks follow the story of The Patient, our protagonist who, after murdering his wife in his sleep, seeks to create the song stuck in his mind created by medication, prescribed in the first place to fill the "holes" and imminent loneliness following the murder. Most bands attempting this sort of musical novella would tend to rely on overblown instrumentals or overly vague narration, while Boys Night Out are mostly to the point, simple enough lyrically to clue the listener as to what's going on while at least keeping some open interpretation to it. "Introducing" finds The Doctor, the one other directly notable character in the tale, recording notes about The Patient following one of a few hospital releases granted to him, but all on top of delicate instrumentation being composed. Upon "Dreaming," the second track, The Patient takes over the story. From there, without giving too much away, we follow his attempts at recreating the aforementioned song save for a final narration from The Doctor in "Dying."

Essentially, this is the same Boys Night Out fans have come to known. There's that playful guitar tone, Connor Lovat-Fraser's flawless ability to impart multiple emotions through his voice alone, and the band's consistent expertise at crafting inviting melodies. While Trainwreck is certainly bursting full of these traits, it's hardly reliant upon them. Sure, the first single, "Medicating," which involves The Patient trying to convince The Doctor he's sane enough to warrant a release from the hospital, is a spectacular song with a breathy singing style of the verses, a recklessly catchy chorus, and a breakdown with gang vocals and BNO's signature handclaps, but the diversity of the record is noticeable immediately following it; the introductory parts of "Purging" are the only inherently aggressive and seemingly intentionally cluttered moments of Trainwreck, containing most of the remaining screaming left in the band's system; if they're trying to convey The Patient's actual state of mind following his guise in assistance of the release, they've succeeded considerably here. Early track "Waking" is even moog-filled, cheesy power pop at its finest, and as infectious as the disease that starts to spread through The Patient's body from rusty factory machinery by album's end.

Towards the end of the album, new keyboardist/vocalist Kara Dupuy ends up playing the part of his wife, and there's two clear instances of The Patient believing he's hearing her voice in his head: "Relapsing," in which Dupuy sings the chorus in a near-Denali / Bright Eyes-esque, acoustic-dependent (the latter more so in the first half of the track) setting, and "Disintegrating," in which she convinces The Patient the only way to conclude the song is through The Doctor's death.

Machine is responsible for production on the record, and it's as fine a job as can be performed. Every cascading fill of guitars is heard beautifully, with differing levels of vocal power changing throughout. It's little things like Lovat-Fraser singing the sole line of "Introducing" ("these lines I wear around my wrists are there to prove that I exist"), and having his voice trade off between equal stereo separation and sneaking up from the right side alone that proves there's fine attention to detail, whether it be through interchanging drum fills -- clicks on the rim, light taps on the cymbals, or barreling charges -- or the advantage taken of a range of effects pedal options that the band's recording shines with a perfect amount of harrowed gloss.

Complementing it all is a lavishly gloomy layout from Switzerland. It's hard to imagine managing to get away with a hue palette consisting solely of greys and one shade of yellow, but through Gordie Ball's photography of several of The Patient's states, a cover shot fitting into the story perfectly, song lyrics flip-flopping between said two colors, and scattered amounts of pills and blotch stains, the general sense of the record reaches across visually defectless.

Trainwreck is a surprise full of surprises. It's a dark and morbid tale exploring the intentions and actions of a deeply troubled man, and the drastic consequences that can occur simply from trying to write a song. Granted it's a rare, hyperbolic scenario when stated simply as such, but whole-heartedly imaginable when carried by an assorted range of styles and affectations bundled inside a package as cohesive, riveting, and picturesque as the story is alone.

Highly recommended.