REVIEW: The Architects (U.S) – ‘Border Wars Episode II’

architects kansas city border wars episode 2

Artist: The Architects (U.S.)
Album: Border Wars Episode II
Genre: Rock ‘n’ Roll

Border Wars Episode II from Kansas City’s The Architects is a record poised to steal your heart and make you truly fight to get it back.

As the latest installment of the five-part concept record and graphic novel combination, Episode II is the pat on the back to help you recover from the hard punch in the gut that was Border Wars Episode I. Yes, you still hear The Architects’ unapologetic brand of Midwest rock ‘n’ roll moxy, but it comes with a sweeter side this time. It’s everything you want from an Architects record and then some.

Don’t mistake the above description as writing this record off as a polished pop success the likes of Justin Timberlake or…5 Seconds of Summer? It’s not a pop record, it’s still a goddamn dirty rock ‘n’ roll effort that will quench your never-plenished thirst for rebellion and spite the way any goddamn rock ‘n’ roll record should. Unlike Episode I, which exploded with massive guitars and loudly driven vocals, the music for Episode II feels more melody-driven.

A track like power chord-driven “Cadillac” shows this through a huge, addictive chorus that rings, “Ca-ca-ca-ca-Cadillac, Cadillac, oh my God,” just sits with you. It rings through your ears, travels down your spine and settles somewhere in your body, ready to be released every time the chorus drops. The standout number on the record, “Kickswaggerboom,” also has a sense of melodic triumph throughout the song. Singer and guitarist Brandon Phillips sings, “She sings like Aretha and fights like a man. She’s on kick, swagger, boom, swagger, kick, swagger, boom.” It’s too addictive to pass up.

And it’s not just Phillips and company’s ability to write a melody that reels you in — it’s also the timelessness of the music. Artists today, especially in popular music, get so wound into making contemporary references within lyrics that it sometimes dilutes the timelessness of a song. This isn’t the case with Border Wars Episode II. This record could come rightfully blasting from your stereo in the ’70s or ’80s the same way it is today — and it will hold up for decades to come.

A song like “Raise Up” is as traditionally punk-influenced as rock music can get. The swiveling bass and the furious guitars make it the musical climax of the record, but again, it’s the timelessness and transparency of the hook that will help it stand the test of time. “If you fittin’ to raise up, raise up, hands up, way up,” Phillips belts behind “whoas” from the band. Classic. Unforgettable.

Embrace the Border Wars series by America’s The Architects now and be prepared to be sent on a musical roller coaster worthy of the greats. It’s the type of music that has the potential to change the way you hear every record after, and that’s a powerful feat to accomplish.

SCORE: 9.5/10
Written by Matthew Leimkuehler (@callinghomematt)

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