Bitter Branches – Your Neighbors Are Failures


Ex-Deadguy vocalist, Tim Singer, is back with a new band and a cast of hardcore veterans, including former Kid Dynamite guitarist, Dan Yemin, on bass. Many of you will be uttering the word “mathcore” in awe, but Bitter Branches are not here to launch a second coming of chaos. Indeed, Your Neighbors are Failures occupies nothing of the tough guy hardcore that has more in common with contemporary metal. This is a thoughtful meditation on the rage of commuter life and the misery of a white-collar existence on the outskirts of the city.

The anti-cop diatribe of ‘Along Came a Bastard’ sets the scene for the urban frustration of this record with its sarcastic advice of “Don’t let some good ones spoil the bunch.” You get the picture. The first minute is a tense shudder of menacing bass notes and semi-distorted guitars dancing around an effervescent drum pattern before Tim Singer unleashes his antipathy for the pigs. It’s more at the art-school punk end of the hardcore spectrum, like Snapcase and mid-90s Fugazi. You realise as early as track two (‘Circus’) that the guitars and bass will never submerge into a chunky low-end cloud of grinding distortion. Instead, they seek an admirable equilibrium between rupturing bass lines and higher-frequency chord shapes. But why is there a feeling that the music could be angrier and more aggressive in its execution?

Perhaps ‘The Man Who Never Cries’ and ‘Plastic Tongues’ accentuate these reservations at the back of your mind. The latter sounds like an extended middle eight section you write into a song when you’re unsure where to go next. That gallop riff at 03:20 seconds needs to be chunkier than the jangly tone emanating from the amps. Take the bass as guidance – this has a marvellous thud to its low-range convoy of protection. ‘Plastic Tongues’ exhibits the same restless energy as The Jesus Lizard, but the dynamics struggle to match the neurotic meltdown of Singer’s vocal outbursts. ‘Chewing on Vitamins’ is what Dead Kennedys would sound like if they made a record in the 2020s.

There’s nothing wrong with creating music that asks more questions than it provides in answers. You decide if the attempt to capture the dry distortion of The Stooges on ‘Sorry You Are Not a Winner’ is a good or a bad thing. The drum work of Jeff Tirabassi is exquisite in its thrust and timekeeping throughout this record. Deadguy fans will also appreciate the way he accents the opening guitar notes of ‘Solo Trip’ like a Wordle puzzle.

The way they end the album is the most impressive aspect of Your Neighbors are Failures, although the lyrics to ‘Monsters Among Us’ might be a bit too simplistic. According to Bitter Branches, bigots and supremacists are all around us with their power haircuts and shiny white teeth. Yet it’s also the closest they get to the ‘everyman’ aesthetic of classic Rollins Band, despite the spectacle of Tim Singer experiencing a nervous breakdown during the song. If only they had an emotive guitar solo to bring it all together. The romantic lyrics of closing track, ‘Show Me Yours’, encapsulate the alienation of the anti-hero liberal who hates nobody and despises the eye-for-an-eye mentality of his foes.  “Let’s be broken together/ Let’s be ugly together/ Let’s not talk of the weather/ Or speak of things mundane/ Let’s celebrate being insane,” roars Tim Singer. The musical backdrop here is what Talking Heads would sound like if they admitted to the presence of testosterone in their system.

Bitter Branches write music for the people who are too conscientious to be slackers but know the rat race is bad for them. Yet they persist and persevere with a lifestyle that demoralises them day-by-day. The guitar work falls short of reproducing the rage of the white-collar bureaucrat, but the vocals will keep you on edge.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 25/02/2022

Record Label: Rude Records

Standout tracks: Along Came a Bastard, Monsters Among Us, Show Me Yours

Suggested Further Listening: Snapcase – End Transmission (2002), The Jesus Lizard – Goat (1991), Fugazi – The Argument (2002)