REVIEW: The Tower & The Fool – How Long

Tower and the fool

Artist: The Tower & the Fool
Album: How Long
Genre: Rock
Label: Run for Cover Records

How Long is, put quite simply, a gorgeous album. It is a vivid, absorbing, and profoundly moving treatise of relationship woes and regrets and as such, it will either speak to you in the most horribly nostalgic way or just make you really, really sad. The band’s passion and commitment are clear but what’s most impressive about this record is the skill with which they’ve treated its emotions. The songs dwell on despondency and sadness a great deal, but never sound indulgent, morose, or overdone. In spite of the obvious heart, the record has a fresh and naturalistic sound that implies the listener is being invited to a personal venting session, quietly permitted to overhear some of the more painful memories of the speaker. It’s understated and tender, and absolutely sublime.

Alex Correia’s vocals aren’t the only element deserving of praise, but his solemn, thoughtful singing is at the heart of the album’s brilliance. He is pensive, filled with bittersweet frankness for one song, then freeing himself to be more impassioned the next. Alongside this strong centrepiece, the music is faultless. It’s melodic and evocative and perfectly pitched to suit the mood of the album, complementing the lyrics and teasing added conviction from them. “Dive Bar” is the opening track and a fine example – the sense of despondency and disillusionment is potent, but the guitars are full of life and vigour and provide a sweetly earnest undertone for the vocals. They seem to intensify the honesty of the lyrics and evoke their wild strength of feeling. “Scoliosis” is also downcast and sullen. Its guitar has sparks of idealism, muted under the factual solemnity of Correia’s performance. He neither embellishes nor romanticises what’s at stake but sings with a striking frankness and clarity. The chorus is particularly good. Quietly invigorating, it adds an air of hope and encouragement to the cold realism of the song.

“How Long” is deceptive, as the contented guitar interplay that opens it creates an idealistic, warm tone. However, when the song starts proper, it becomes deeply personal and intensely moving. The song seems to reflect upon a kind of helplessness, as Correia muses upon the feelings that linger after a relationship ends and ponders how long it will take for normality to return. It is a searching and subdued track and yet very powerful, as it buries and stirs its way under your skin. “Breach” is also very human. It addresses faith and spirituality in addition to the more recurrent themes, and captures everything with a tender charm. Markedly less stricken than the other songs, it is, further, an outlet from the pervasive sense of despondency.

“Die Alone” features a more impassioned and pleading vocal performance. The pace is faster and freer, though the sullen guitar line that lingers throughout echoes the lyrics and keeps the song rooted in the heartfelt and vulnerable. It finishes on a brief, subdued, though vibrant solo which leads into “Who Does She Think She Is?” This final track exposes uncertainty and a very deep and intimate fear of weakness. It is perhaps a more accepting and mature take on the subject matter that has defined the album, but the lyrics remain acutely aware of one’s limitations. This simplistic and touching take on frustration and love offers a more resolute and even defiant conclusion to the album. There is – crucially – a sense of resilience and a will to move on, though the words don’t ignore the resentful tendencies that go with this. It marks a coming of age in one respect, while its wistful melancholy represents the spectral and lingering sense of loss.

How Long is an extravagantly vivid take on a universal theme, and one that treats its subject with utmost sincerity, respect, and devotion. Its starkly introspective stance may not endear all, but few could argue about the thoughtful beauty of the music and its serene charms. It is a delight to listen to, for its maturity and compelling perspective, and it would be a hard heart indeed who could reject the simple, diligent elegance of The Tower & The Fool’s work.

SCORE: 10/10
Review written by Grace Duffy

Jacob Tender

Jacob is a freelance writer who calls home. He is also the co-host of the Bantha Fodder podcast and helps UTG with technical and financial nonsense.
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