Dear Tonight - We're Not Men (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Dear Tonight

We're Not Men (2007)

Red Leader

Many underground music enthusiasts would likely link the early material of Brooklyn, NY's Dear Tonight to that of a "Level-Plane sound" -- that is, the raw, chaotic screamo that landmark record label is widely known for putting out. Perhaps fed up with the pigeonholing, the band's first full-length shows a remarkable change that subsequently dodges all easy categorizing.

We're Not Men might be best described as bridging the ever-widening gap between early emotional hardcore (read: the frantic energy of Rites of Spring) and its latter-day counterparts (Thursday's dynamic vocal interplay), perhaps with a post-hardcore touch similar to A Young Trophy Band...-era As Friends Rust. Ryan's unique, raspy vocals front a varied array of tempos and moods, which provide the backbone for a platter of politically and socially conscious writings. The anthemic "By Ballot or by Bullet" is particularly poignant: "So we strike first and furious / and offer more sophisticated colonialism with a kind name. / Call in the regulars: for-profit consulting firms, engineers, NGOs and UN aid."

Numero dos, "Failure Then Fire," blasts away at hardcore speed early on in the record, and is well-followed up on with the ambitious "What We Love Not Are," which cues up emotional pleas to all vocalists' inflections: that is, Ryan's and whomever backup assistant is scratchily yelling behind him. Completing the sandwich is the faster "Dead Boys," which manages to retain the band's complex, thoughtful guitar work. Then there's "All the Silver," which features the New Dress' Laura Fidler singing along softly with Ryan at the beginning, only for the instruments to suddenly distort and pound for its heavier take-out, with Fidler offering a few lines that help to alter the mood from campfire circle to a buildup of melancholic heartache (as if there was any other kind).

We're Not Men may not captivate the listener's full interest at every single one of its turns, but for all its little nuances and its overall unique sheen (captured in perfect form by its recorder, Dean Baltulonis), it's certainly a solid, accomplished feat by a band that easily shows itself to be one of the more forward-thinking, intelligent punk acts of the NYC area.

You Have Too Much Faith in Us
Dead Boys
We Aren't Doing It