Honest Iago - Straight on 'Til Morning (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Honest Iago

Straight on 'Til Morning (2009)

Pavement Press

Honest Iago's Straight on 'Til Morning was a digital-only release, so you really only have the songs to go by, and when you zero in on them and try to decipher what they're doing, it's not an easy task.

See, at their core, Honest Iago play a brand of buildup-indebted, somewhat folk-laden punk rock that actually reminds me of the Riot Before. But the musical ambition on this 47-minute album stretches beyond that, with somewhat more ornate elements occasionally dotting their arrangements -- xylophone, piano, synthetic beats, trumpet, acoustics -- and it attempts to add more character and breadth to songs that easily average over four minutes apiece.

But that certain intangible isn't quite fully present, while the tracks still come off with some mild success in the process. There's definitely a good scope on this album, even if the songs don't always match it. Opener "I Can't Wait Until TS Eliot Dies Again" bears lots of little crescendos and "whoa-oh"s to heighten tension, and while they don't quite make the song as anguished as the band had probably envisioned, it propels it along at a fine clip. The vague spoken-word parts and quieter conclusion does end it more innocuously.

Bizarre, frizzy electronic elements and some piano flourishes are weaved into "If Capitalism Doesn't Kill Me This Song Will," but they actually just kind of distract from what could otherwise be a stronger show of restrained songwriting from the band. More completely minimal pauses would seem to work better, as the fuzzy noise just kind of provides a weird connect for the song's later movement. The nearly seven-minute "Less Martial Law, More Martial Arts" has a sort of indie pop keyboard tone to it, but it's a pretty rugged, tense song otherwise; it's a weird juxtaposition, and the hooks in here aren't hitting home as hard as they should. I can hear "The Difference Between Cigarettes and Time" getting some sing-alongs at shows with the title providing an OK hook, while there's a raw emotion to "Pembroken" that just doesn't come through as it should. "L'Irreparable" is a straight-up interlude, vaguely Dntel-ish and oddly late in the album.

There's an occasional section here where the flow is more natural and pronounced, but too often I feel like Honest Iago are overstepping their boundaries. Nonetheless, this is a fairly creative, eager and certainly honest-sounding debut; they just need to figure out how to coalesce things better.

If Capitalism Doesn't Kill Me This Song Will
Hey We Ain't Scared of Brooklyn...Spot Collins Makes Us Nervous
All Prophets in Their Houses-Coda