While I Breathe, I Hope - Long Live the King (Cover Artwork)

While I Breathe, I Hope

Long Live the King (2006)

Armada in Flames / Smith 7

It takes a lot in this day and age to be an optimist. Especially when you're a band adrift in the rolling seas of gloomy, nihilistic and usually masochistic music. If you're going to call your band While I Breathe, I Hope, you better not sing about slitting your wrists with the breakup letter your ex-girlfriend sent just before you slit her throat. These, sadly, are routine lyrics for most "heavy" bands in this foul year of 2006. The pessimism oozes across the musical spectrum: big shot hip-hop acts to arena-filling emo rock outfits. Gone are the posi messages so rampant in the early `90s, from Public Enemy to Fugazi.

WIBIH identify with those halcyon optimistic days. Their lyrics involve overcoming personal and political obstacles. They criticize George W. in "Let's Roll" ("You usher in our defeat / Passing off the blame"). They cite the arduous nature of their forbears in "Start Anew" ("People like my father break their backs / And die so soon, so poor and lonely"). They might be Christians: two songs begin with the phrase "God knows." Another includes the line "Jesus your name has been to hell." But the band seem willing to ask questions and fight tooth and nail for what they believe.

Much of the material brings to mind an updated "Midwest emo" sound that once dominated many a stereo in the late `90s. Bands like Braid, Promise Ring, Mid Carson July (though they were from Pennsylvania) and Get Up Kids excelled in crafting songs under this rubric. "Barbara Marx" and "Fall in Place" display the sound well. The production is rather thin, the snare sounding more like a cardboard box. That doesn't hinder the raw energy of the songs.

WIBIH walk the tightrope of mid-tempo melodic punk. It's a balancing act of heavier hardcore with brighter indie rock. Reference "I Apologize" for further evidence, though this is not a cover of the ace Hüsker Dü song. Let's hope they continue as one link in the bulwark against downer, frown-faced mascara-caked boy bands.