With an album title like We Do What We Want, it’s hard to keep from caving in to the pressure to make some witty pun.
But I must say…when Emery does what they want, good things happen (I’m sorry, you knew the pun was coming, now let’s get past it).
This time around, let’s just say things got a heavy. Crunchy guitars and howls introduce the gut-puncher “The Cheval Glass,” sounding like a fury of china being flung about and smashed, until croons by lead singer Toby Morell breaks out of the madness. Then somehow the madness blends together with the sane in a rhythmic chorus dashed with screams. All is punctuated by a breakdown with an invitation to headbang. Welcome to post-hardcore.
“Scissors” follows up with machine-gun fire to the face–but just when you’re in the pit about to punch the dude next to you, in comes clean vocals and a steady beat. After an announcement of, “Here comes the breakdown,” a sweet guitar riff leads up to a chorus with dance-worthy beat. Some spooky keyboard work makes an appearance before a snarling wolf pack was brought in to finish it off.
You get my drift?
Oh, and speaking of drift, “The Anchors” continues to emphasize the heavy tone–this time by starting out softly and then building up to a swimming-from-sharks frenzy of Josh Head’s growling meshed with electric guitars and heart-hammering beats.
You probably get it now. Emery’s stepped toward face-melting horizons. What makes the post-hardcore outfit work for them, though, are the efforts put into creating songs that feel more spontaneous than formulaic.
I’ll use one of my personal favorites, “The Curse of Perfect Days” as my primary evidence. Inspired by a nightmare Morell had of losing his family, it begins softly and thoughtfully, building up to a frenetic verse before being shattered by howls, and then out of nowhere comes a chorus to sing along to. Layered vocals–an Emery specialty–contribute to the next verses, and the last chorus pulls down the tempo for a slow-motion feel before bringing it back to speed in time for an abrupt end, as if you woke up from the dream you were in. And while the song keeps away from any obvious formula, it remains tight-knit and even catchy.
Another unique standout is “Daddy’s Little Peach,” which is written borderline ballad-style. With a minimalistic setup for the verses that lead to powerful choruses, the song tells the story of a young woman struggling with her identity as she falls into the trap of a player.
“Another eight hours and the day’s left you wanting reprieve. / Or at least religion. /But just relax, ’cause everyone’s sinning. / Last night. The drinks. The words./… / Your hair. Your make up. / Your high heels, impeccable. / And all of it just to sit / with some wannabe’s and counterfeits. / How respectable.”
The entire album is lyrically strong, written with honesty, becoming rather spiritual by exploring deep into the matters of when a person makes his or herself their own god. “You Wanted It” is a prime example:
“I created everything here that I wanted to see /So was that your plan, to leave me out? We were all reciting messages and pushing repeat / But this world you made does it let you breathe / Does it let you feel anything but yourself? / … / When was the last time you saw anyone else? /… / The plans you made, you wanted it / The bitter taste, you wanted it / What god became, you wanted it / But the one thing you need you’ll never get.”
Now, this isn’t all to say that We Do What We Want is flawless. “I’m Not Here for Rage, I”m Here for Revenge” is unfortunately screechy, and “Addicted to Bad Decisions” intros with a synth pattern that seems disjointed from the rest of the song, which ultimately moves along fine without it.
The closer of the album, “Fix Me,” is well-written with a stripped-down set and honest lyrics about the need for salvation, but it’s placing in the track listing needs a little help, as I felt it became completely overshadowed by the prior song “I Never Got to See the West Coast.”
That said, “I Never Got to See the West Coast” is a crowning sweet little beauty for We Do What We Want. In regards to someone dealing with suicide, the song is raw with emotion; composed with acoustic guitars, crooning vocals, and somber effects by electric guitar and keys, the lyrics seep in and grab tight to the heart.
As a whole, We Do What We Want pulls together a solid post-hardcore work that will find a crowd of headbangers to welcome in to the Emery family.