Everybody has one band that they’re absolutely infatuated with, but, for some reason, their friends just absolutely despise. I’ve known someone who loved Blink 182 and, rightfully so, all of his friends hated them. I have another friend who loved that first Afroman record and, likewise, nobody else did. Come to think of it, these examples make much more sense than mine. The one band that I’ve consistently had trouble selling my friends on is Engine Down.
In all fairness, Engine Down isn’t as anthemic as At the Drive-In, as danceable as Q and Not U or as fun and spastic as The Dismemberment Plan. But regardless of this, they’re solid songwriters and when it comes down to it, they rock. Again, this isn’t something that has been easy to convince people of, as Engine Down’s rock is different than most people’s. The Virginia band’s version of post-hardcore involves melancholy, minor-key melodies, subtle textures and a near-absence of power chords.
On Engine Down’s latest, their first for Lookout!, their formula for success hasn’t changed much, but there’s been some great alterations in the production department. This time around, their sound seems to have beefed up a bit, giving them an even more obvious heavy rock sound. Whereas their previous records leaned toward Sunny Day Real Estate or Sleepytime Trio, Engine Down suggests a less straightforward Sparta or any of Ken Andrews’ bands, which seem to be a major influence in the hardcore world these days (see: Cave-In).
Yup, Engine Down has gotten LOUD. Opener “Rogue” is all mega-distorted bass and Keeley Davis’s anthemic chorus: “I never thought I’d learn to accept the burns/ and walk away” For once, a band that often gets filed under “emo” is delivering lyrics of strength and empowerment, rather than mere whining. “Control Group” is more bone-shaking rock, while the angular punk of “Cover” even suggests the dissonant guitar interplay of No Knife.
Engine Down’s self-titled record is easily their best, though their previous album, Demure is hard to beat. Then again, I might be the only one that holds this opinion. However, I dare any of Engine Down’s naysayers to listen to this album and tell me that they don’t like it, as this louder, better-produced version of the band offers even more to love. Or maybe I just need some new friends.
Sparta – Wiretap Scars
Year of the Rabbit – Year of the Rabbit
Mock Orange – Mind is Not Brain
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.