REVIEW: Silverstein – Short Songs

silverstein

Artist: Silverstein
Album: Short Songs
Genre: Hardcore
Label: Hopeless Records

Short Songs is an intriguing venture for well-established Canadian outfit Silverstein. Described as a “mini-album” and extension of their last full-length Rescue, it’s designed to give fans something to mull over until they record their next LP. The album is composed of 22 songs, of which 11 are original recordings and 11 are covers of tracks by the likes of NOFX, Dead Kennedys, and Green Day. The unique selling point is, as the title suggests, the brevity of each song, with none running for longer than 90 seconds. It’s an interesting approach to recording, and – perhaps surprisingly – makes for a fresh and invigorating listen.

I’m not entirely sure what the point is of only recording bits and pieces of songs and covers, but even if it were nothing more than a preview of coming attractions – or indeed, an assortment of leftovers from the Rescue sessions, this is actually really good. The album obviously lacks the fluidity and coherency of a full-blown release but the experimentation is commendable and produces excellent results. Further, the band has taken care to include various types of track on here, instead of sticking rigidly to one formula. There are heavier songs, acoustic pieces, and others that take a more harmony-driven approach. Sometimes, one gets the distinctive feel that the band preferred to use an amazing minute or so of music instead of writing it into a longer song, but each track shows merit and some highlight more obvious strengths than others.

“Sick as your Secrets” is pacy and aggressive, invoking a certain darkness that’s also evident on later tracks “My Miserable Life” and “Truth and Temptation.” Of these, the former essentially feels like one extended breakdown – you’re barely into the track when it ends – while the latter is cacophonous with some effective gang vocals.

“Sin & Redemption” is a clean track – brisk, but affecting. “SOS” also makes fine use of harmony to evoke a lost, desperate sound. Its crashing guitars do make it sound harsh, but this is well interjected with quiet, distant moments of reflection throughout its 90 seconds. The drums and clean vocals in “Brookfield” make it sound horribly tasteless at first, but the absence of heavier elements actually makes the piece a lot fresher and more accessible.

“La Marseillaise” is, sadly, not a cover of the French national anthem and thereby represents the biggest disappointment on the album. “Sleep Around” is the acoustic offering. I can’t tell if it’s tongue-in-cheek or genuinely wounded, but there’s a distinct lack of emotion in the singing despite the accusatory subject matter. In either case, it treads a fine line in veiled resentment, but surprisingly builds into what is effectively a pop song in disguise with a big burgeoning chorus and keys.

“See Ya Bill” completes the original part of the album with a six-second tirade that’s sudden, yet visceral. The band excels on this first half, so their covers section is a little disappointing. As outlined above, it’s difficult to see the merit in offering your take on another band’s song if you’re only going to perform 30 seconds to a minute of it. That said, this section is comprised of material by artists that inspired the band and have enough street credit in and of themselves to leave a good impression.

“Short Songs” (originally by Dead Kennedys) emphasises the ethos behind the album by way of a plethora of guest vocals, including the likes of Mike Hranica and Tim McIlrath. “236 E. Broadway” and “Good Intentions” (originally by Gob and Gorilla Biscuits respectively) offer brief if meaty takes on the source material. “236…” in particular has an excellent bass line and intense, brooding chords. The Promise Ring’s “Scenes from Parisian Life” probably fares best here. It’s the first glimpse of a breather in the covers section, with delicate guitar refrains implying reflection and pensiveness. It’s removed and dreamy and feels very like the after-effect of the head wound they’ve given themselves through their ferocious renditions of other tracks. It’s actually almost touching given its unlikely placing and sweet little instruments.

The covers section isn’t exactly as compelling as it could have been but it forms a decent second act to the staccato brilliance of the first. The band’s original pieces have enough flair to pique excitement for their next record and considering the whole thing clocks in at less than 20 minutes, it can hardly be considered time-wasting. Short Songs is an exceedingly fun and original endeavor.

SCORE: 8/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • After reading this and seeing that you didn’t quite understand why Silverstein would ”
    only record bits and pieces of songs and covers” I don’t think you really know the concept of the album. From what I understood when the band released information about recording this new album, they were inspired by a bunch of their favorite artists’ “short songs” that yes while being short still held their own to be fun, interesting, good songs. So in that aspect, they were to cover 11 of their favorite “short songs” and create 11 more of their own original “short songs.” By no means are they only recording snippets &/or bits and pieces of songs to cover. All of the original songs that they covered are right in the same track length as the covers, give or take a few seconds. This review is pretty good but I think before you actually reviewed the album, you should have taken the time to look up the originals that they covered to better understand the concept. Just offering constructive criticism, by no means is this me just trying to get a rise out of you.

  • Joe

    I don’t think whoever wrote this should be writing album reviews.. sorry bud. I know it’s cool to judge people’s work, but if you don’t know what you are talking about, maybe you should find another career path. Writing that you didn’t understand why Silverstein “only record bits and pieces of songs and covers” just screams to everyone reading, hey this dude didn’t do any research into what he’s talking about. All in all, great album. Poor review.

  • Grace

    Thanks, dude. I’m a girl.