Everything you need to know about Whenever, If Ever – the debut full length from The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – is right there in the image gracing the album’s cover. It’s a snapshot of exuberance and carefree youth – the idea of jumping off a cliff into the unknown is met with I don’t give a fuck enthusiasm perfectly sums up the ten track record. Even the album title possesses that attitude.
Throughout Whenever, If Ever, The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die (you best believe I’m abbreviating the shit out of this name for the duration of this review) takes plenty of lefts in its music when you’re expecting rights. Post-rock tendencies are met with horns-aplenty and juxtaposed against incredibly catchy pop-punk-esque hooks. TWIABP’s thorough aggressiveness is exhilarating from beginning to end. The album’s sleepy intro, the two-minute “Blank #9,” is tasked with bringing what’s so endearing about TWIABP to life, as it leads into quirky guitar opening of “Heartbeat In The Brain” before the avalanche of instrumentation rushes into our ears.
The nearly six-minute track is the pupu platter of genres the band gets into throughout Whenever, If Ever. The energy picks up immediately in “Fightboat,” and then slows down and ultimately builds within the gorgeous “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay.” The way TWIABP transitions from dreamy soundscapes to a spastic kind of pop-punk is truly fascinating (it’s executed perfectly again on moog-friendly “You Will Never Go To Space,” as well as in reverse on “Layers of Skin We Drag Around”) and a major reason why this album is resonating with so many listeners.
Another reason is how relatable and personal the lyrics are. The tempo change in the aforementioned “Picture of a Tree That Doesn’t Look Okay” is met with something poignant like Where do the echoes from the echoes go? Where does the water flow once it leaves our homes?, while “Ultimate Steve” blasts into gang vocals of The world will destroy me/Our voices will flood rivers and valleys/The world will destroy me/I am the mountains crumbling. after its ever-building two-minute post-rock intro. This is the kind of stuff that takes good albums and turns them into great albums. As sporadic and fantastic the music is on Whenever, If Ever, the lyricism and vocals take it above and beyond (the dual call and return vocals from former vocalist Thomas Diaz and newcomer David Bello contain a certain charm that’ll irk some listeners but endear most). When an album showcases that kind of affinity between the two elements, you end up with something special.
And that relationship is never stronger or emotional than it is on “Gig Life” and “Getting Sodas.” The former is an intimate look at the struggles and sacrifices musicians make to make their dreams come true and the closest thing the album has to a single. The latter is TWIABP’s seven-minute masterstroke; Whenever, If Ever’s magnum opus, if you will. What begins as tense and heavy eventually emerges as a sprawling and intensive outro that sums up our basic fears and needs as humans. The same group whom just a few songs ago were stating that the world would destroy them are now declaring that the world is a beautiful place/but we have to make it that way. It’s a beautiful, substantial finish that demands your full attention.
TWIABP’s knack for weaving passionate lyrics with unpredictable music has been well-known for the last few years – thanks to the numerous extended plays and splits the band released. The accumulation of all those releases and basement shows have resulted in Whenever, If Ever. It’s the genre’s gold standard in 2013 – the kind of LP you want playing when you take that leap into the great abyss.