During Fiddlehead’s set at Manchester, UK’s Outbreak Festival in 2022, frontman Pat Flynn described the beautiful carnage of a great punk rock show (of which Outbreak is a shining example) as representing “the human spirit; chaos on the outside in an attempt to keep it together on the inside.” The man is something of an elder statesman on the punk and hardcore scene, so statements like this are somewhat expected from him, but it remains a brilliant bit of poetry.
The maxim also serves as a summation of Fiddlehead’s worldview. The Boston five-piece play a fusion of uptempo alt-rock and heartfelt post-hardcore that’s essentially grown-up emo: nakedly honest with its emotions and often genuinely transcendent in its visceral execution. There’s something deeply human about the sincerity of Flynn’s vulnerable lyrics and the band’s vibrant, energetic craft. It’s built Fiddlehead an ever-growing cult following, with their third full-length Death Is Nothing To Us likely to expand this fevered congregation.
This time around, Flynn’s lyrics tackle the biggest existential matters—death, depression and the search for meaning. Flynn is an enormously brave lyricist who refuses to codify or abstract anything. His words confront weighty ideas head-on, which is an often disarming experience, like glimpsing inside a best friend’s fragile headspace. “Sleepyhead” tackles the stark mundanity of depression, “Welcome To The Situation” howls for the state of the world, while “Fifteen To Infinity” beautifully addresses Flynn’s love for his partner. On “Fiddleheads” he reveals his artistic motivation is to “see the world and show it my soul.” The pureness of this raison d’etre takes enormous skill, courage and empathy to pull off.
Flynn’s words are such an immediate and heart-touching part of Death Is Nothing To Us that it can be tempting to overlook the contributions made by the rest of Fiddlehead. Call it the “La Dispute problem.” However, his moving lyrics wouldn’t land with half of their force if it weren’t for the music’s sharp structuring, elegant chord changes and ferocious energy. The aforementioned “Sullenboy” is the album’s centerpiece; a thrillingly-structured track that drips with melancholic chords and subtly intricate riffs. Also worth highlighting is the two-minute closer “Going To Die” which functions as a constantly-progressing epic-in-miniature, as if it’s mirroring the stages of life itself.
Some may find this album’s emotions too overwrought. However, this would be the exact sort of cynicism that Fiddlehead are trying to rebuff. David Foster Wallace once said, in a similar retort to archness and irony, that “to be really human […] is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic.” Fiddlehead’s greatest triumph is their ability to clasp this truth and make it into a stirring and electrifying experience. Death Is Nothing To Us manages to make an overused phrase feel fresh and honest; it’s a truly life-affirming creation.
Label: Run for Cover
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