Another band I have found due to searching for new songs for my radio show; The Flatliners are from Richmond Hill and Brampton, Ontario, Canada. Formed in 2002, they started off with a ska influence and have since moved onto a melodic hardcore style. This is their first album since 2013's 'Dead Language', it is also their first since leaving Fat Wreck Chords and moving to Rise records; the subject of change seems to weigh heavy on this record in a lot of the press I have read before starting this review. Moving labels, moving their rehearsal space, the shifting nature of the light on the cover, it all hints at change for the band and it is how people deal with change that defines them. Let us see how this has effected The Flatliners....
01 - Mammals
The opening riff to this song is deceptive, it is heavy and doomy with a hint of metal; so, I was expecting the song to erupt into a song in the style of Biohazard, Sick of It All, that sort of thing. Then they floor me with a song that could have been created in the heyday of Britpop, mixed in with punk sensibilities and a hint of the Wildhearts as well. It is the right song to open the album, it grabs your attention straight away with a quality riff that keeps on giving.
02 - Hang My Head
'Hang My Head' follows on with the same level of quality as 'Mammals', with a song about being the friend who is a bane of people's social life, the friend who is always in trouble and cause strive within their own life (and other people's lives as well). It is a song that has regret written all over it, with a melodic sadness to the riffs and that sense of repentance etched into every note.
03 - Nicotine Lips
The theme of self-destruction is brought into the middle of the stage with 'Nicotine Lips', once more with that sense that nothing is going to stop this car crash from happening. It has one of the best chorus hooks I have heard in 2017, it explodes out of the blocks and makes me want to jump around the room with no cares and a freedom that seems to be in contrast or conflict with the actual content of the song. I love that, the song has a message and it still gives a totally different reaction - what a tune.
04 - Indoors
Sometimes the cure can be even worse than the cause, social anxiety and medications can make it hard to feel anything at all; well, that is what I am getting from this song. It is a slower number, it does not have that bouncing quality that the first three songs possess, but it has quality none the less. They say misery loves company, this song embodies that sentiment.
05 - Human Party Trick
For me, 'Human Party Trick' is a song where the music is stronger than the lyrics. The words are still important, feeling like you are only brought out to entertain; but the music leaves the lasting impression for me on this occasion. It is a stirring number, one that has a Jonah Matranga quality about the music and that is very high praise indeed.
06 - Unconditional Love
An ode to the ending of a relationship, bemoaning the fact that not all relationships are unconditional and sometimes things are designed to fall apart. It is as moody as a teenage on a rant, but without an unfocused rant; the pain is solid here, driving the song towards the crescendo at the end. It is a top-quality number.
07 - Burn Out Again
Self-destruction is a regular theme on this album, one which is brought back out on 'Burn Out Again'. It is a slow-paced number for the most part, in keeping with the lyrical content; however, it does not gel as well as other songs on this record and it feels as if the point has been better presented elsewhere.
08 - Infinite Wisdom
Being cleansed from a horrific break up is a cathartic experience and such an experience forms the bedrock of 'Infinite Wisdom'. Just giving oneself over to the inevitable and hoping to be washed away from a destruction and entangling relationship is sometimes required, in this situation it is played out with a folk influenced number that reminds me of the sound created by the UK's Frank Turner. A positive step towards a better life.
09 - Sympathy Vote
A song about being out of control, being given chance after chance and sometimes not feeling as if you are really there, 'Sympathy Vote' is a little rocket of a song. The chorus is the clincher once again, with a riff that just screams quality and will be sung back to the band loudly at each of their shows; this is one of the best songs on this album.
10 - Wedding Speech
This song is a strange one for me; once again I am loving the music more than the words, as the sound comes across as a high-energy punk bomb which just keeps on giving. But the lyrics do not gel well with the music, the contrast is too stark to be ignored and I find myself disconnecting with them and focusing on that riff that just keeps on rolling in my mind.
11 - Chameleon Skin
We have reached the penultimate song of the album with 'Chameleon Skin' and the energetic punk that has been the main focus of the rest of this album is put to one side, in favour of an atmospheric sound that helps this song stand apart from the rest of the album. It is not the obvious "let's get the acoustic guitar out for a radio hit" punk song, it is the sound of a guitar being played in a back alley with the blues running through the centre of each note as it is played. I love this song as it brings something different to the table, something that a lot of acts fail to do.
12 - No Roads
Ending the album is 'No Roads' and I feel that the wrong song ended the album; this is not to say that 'No Roads' is a poor song, it is a really good song that has a fantastic build towards the end of the song and final chorus. But following on from 'Chameleon Skin' is a big ask for this song and the former just has an edge that (for my money) would have ended this album perfectly. Again, not saying that this is a poor song, it just sits in the shadow of the previous number.
With this album being my introduction to the Flatliners, it is a rewarding experience; to be honest, I am surprised I have not came across them before as they tick a lot of boxes for me. They play melodic hardcore as good as any other band in the genre, they are thought provoking and can rock with the best of them. There is a little bit too much self-pity on some of the lyrics, but it is still a quality release. For your new (or old) melodic hardcore heroes, I give you the Flatliners.
8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my time, money and heart
Top track - Nicotine Lips