As a race, we like consistency. There’s a long-winded, wordy premise called “Balance Theory” that describes this. Basically, the theory says most humans would rather have everything stay the same than constantly change. Per usual, there are exceptions to the rule; we call them thrill seekers or daredevils. But these people are few and far between, and despite what you tell yourself as you put your gauges in every morning, you are not one of these people. Music fans, especially, like consistency. Crime In Stereo, in perhaps the most “punk” move of the year, have essentially created an album full of “F**k You’s” aimed at those looking for the same ol’ same ol’. Some people are going to be mad, some are going to rejoice, and others will (incorrectly) hail Is Dead as a revolution. In all likelihood, though, Is Dead will be a testament to those with open minds.
A few songs from Is Dead trickled into our greedy little hands, and people were genuinely shocked at what they were hearing. And yes, there is plenty of genre-bouncing throughout. “Almost Ghostless/Above The Gathering Ocean” could be an alternative radio hit if it was longer on hooks and shorter on oddball electronics. “Orbiter” creeps along while Kristian Hallbert, sounding positively shattered, forcefully whispers, “How could you do that to me?” The song’s punctuation comes in a flurry of pitchy guitar, making this a haunting (and successful) attempt at mellow rock. Somehow Crime In Stereo dodge all missteps associated with “progressing” or “pushing” one’s sound.
If you’ve somehow made it through Is Dead without noticing any huge departures (just go with me on this one), your epiphany will arrive during “Unfortunate Tourists.” Its slathering of industrial gloop and jumbled layers will have pretty much everyone scratching their heads, but it will also throw dated stereotypes and preconceived notions about hardcore rabble-rousers out the window. Crime In Stereo have evolved into something more. Maybe it is hardcore, maybe it isn’t – Who am I to say? This song, however, is a masterpiece (wow).
Maybe they should have named this record Is Nearly Dead. “XXXX (The First 1000 Years Of Solitude)” and “Animal Pharm” pump through with grimy guitar effects and lively tempos. CIS have fully realized the sound sought after on tracks like “Gravity/Grace” and “Slow Math.” Hallbert still has some of the best melodic hardcore chops in the business. His voice hits multiple falsettos(?!), dirty yells and melodies with ease. “…But You Are Vast” begins under the stars, free-flowing and impressive. Then, Alex Dunne and Gary Cioni’s intensely fast riffs move the song back inside to an overcrowded venue. Their ability to change and adapt to the varied song structures on Is Dead is the true highlight. Pedal effects, delays and intimate walls of sound become commonplace (check out “Vicious Teeth” and follow how many forms the song takes). “Nixon” firmly plants itself in the soil that gave The Troubled Stateside life, but the placement on Is Dead is – excuse me for this – dead on. The song becomes a bridge (9, Doh!) between the heavier first-half and more experimental second-half.
I very quickly became enamored with Is Dead. The chances taken here are huge for a former (*gasp*) hardcore band. Crime In Stereo’s movement towards catchier tracks, complicated arrangements and widespread appeal should land them much success. So what if it wasn’t what people were expecting. Crime In Stereo explored new ground and are ready to share their treasures with the world. I’ll be first in line at the exhibit.