If you’re a fan of The Story So Far, you might like this album, but you might also like it slightly less than The 1975’s debut album, to which Elder Brother bears many similarities but without the polish or the focus. If, however, you’re a rabid devotee of The Story So Far who posts their lyrics on your Tumblr to describe your #feelings and have a framed picture of Parker next to your bed, you will probably love this album as much as I loved all of Rivers Cuomo’s ‘Alone’ albums despite them obviously not holding much musical value for anyone who doesn’t geek out over Weezer (which is to say, I loved them a lot).
The side project of TSSF’s guitarist Kevin Geyer, and Daybreaker’s Dan Rose, presumably Elder Brother was conceived as an outlet to allow Geyer to express a softer side, which means a lot of noodly guitar leads and plenty of reverb, and for Rose to let his full vocal range to shine, an opportunity which doesn’t seem to arise quite as often in Daybreaker. You can pretty much tell on album opener “Pennsylvania” exactly what to expect from these guys. It starts out with a steady drumbeat that sounds fit to get a crowd pumped at Coachella before revealing some not-so-subtle influence from Into It. Over It. From then on, it sounds basically as if Evan Weiss was fronting The1975 after listening to nothing but Matchbox Twenty after a 3-hour road trip. The change-ups in the emo revival formula, from the distorted yet conservative guitar solos to the radio-friendly vocals make ‘Heavy Head’ something a bit more than just another example of the influence the Kinsellas have had on indie rock over the past 15 years.
“Throw Me To The Wolves,” while probably not upbeat enough to actually get radio play, especially since it lacks a clear chorus, it is the catchiest song on the album and hard not to bob your head to. The largely acoustic “Any Sort of Plan” is pleasant enough, but it’s an example of how when the band really gets down to it and tries to be vulnerable, they deliver clichéd and cringeworthy lines like “I wanna go to heaven but I don’t wanna die,” which sounds even more corny when played to music than it does on paper. This is a huge weakness considering the type of project this is, and ultimately, the festival-ready rock of TSSF is more relatable than this experimental effort will ever be.
‘Heavy Head’ certainly has its moments, but after hearing a description of the band and its sound, you can pretty much decide if you’re going to like it or not before you even listen. While it can meander at times, this is ultimately just a project for a couple of guys to try out some musical variation that they normally wouldn’t be able to in their primary projects, and if you’re a fan of either of those bands, then you’ll most likely find something to appreciate about this album.
Recommended Tracks: Pennsylvania, Throw Me To The Wolves, Lightning Bug