The Great Explainer – [10” EP]

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Some questions simply require answers – no matter how hard people contemplate them. Like, doesn't everyone want to know what purpose Stonehenge serves? Doesn't everyone want to know if we're alone in the universe? Is there a god? What happens to us when we die? All of those are perfectly valid questions, but my own most pressing question at the moment regards where the value lies in pressing music into just one side of a record and leaving the other side as an uncut and pristine surface. I mean really – if you're going to go the trouble and expense of manufacturing a fetish commodity, why not go all the way?

With that question in mind, perhaps it's ironic that the most recent band to go the “ten-inch, one-sided, four-track EP” route is The Great Explainer. The Great Explainer's Chunksaah debut arrives ceremoniously enough, having been produced by none other than Bouncing Souls guitarist Pete Steinkopf and boasting a sound and presence that almost seems destined to challenge the established conventions of what's acceptable in punk, screamo and alt-rock in general because it doesn't adhere to any, but incorporates elements of them all.

Right from the opening of “Quotas,”The Great Explainer starts intermingling several games at once and will instantly draw attention to themselves because it's so solid and seamless. The vocal interplay between Sean Bys and Matt Van, for example, echos the half-aggressive-half-melodic tone that Alexisonfire rode to international acclaim six years ago, but the ride is smoother here because Van is a better singer than Dallas Green and the band itself only rides their bracing and atonal screamo timbres far enough to snap listeners to attention; after the initial crunch piques ears, The Great Explainer backslides into solid and melodic punk tones which both resolve the song's introduction and make for the money shot that will get the kids in the pit singing along. Purists and rabid fans of any one of the sounds that The Great Explainer is intertwining here will balk and scream heresy, but those “over-achievers” need to lighten up; as soon as a listener steps out of his scene and approaches The Way Things Swell on its' own merits, the perfect balance of sounds represented in the EP will win all the hearts willing.

With their first brave play pulled in “Quotas,” The Great Explainer gets bolder and pulls the rug out from under both pop punk and melodic hardcore by setting a walking pace through “I Finally Found My Dreamboat,” letting growler Bys rough up the verses to get the brains of listeners bubbling and their eyes seeing red before Van steps up during the choruses to scale the red back to rose. Again, standing back from it, the way in which The Great Explainer weaves and baits emotional states on “I Finally Found My Dreamboat” is pretty unprecedented; no one has ever been so brave as to play to both the lovers and the fighters so smoothly (detractors will say 'recklessly') as The Great Explainer does here.

As the EP progresses and both “Codeine… Bourbon” and “Michael Jordan: 666” shoot to prove that the mixtures produced in the first half of the EP weren't just a fluke (which they do, handily) listeners will find themselves just waiting for the needle to reach the end of the grooved so they can quickly play the EP again. And then again. The songs never get old in that repetition as listeners find new sounds to inhabit each time through (like the very Blink 182-esque guitar line buried behind the bluster of “I Finally Found My Dream Boat”) and adore. Perhaps that's why The Great Explainer put all of the songs that appear on The Way Things Swell on one side of the vinyl; could it be that the band did it as a courtesy to listeners, so they wouldn't have to slip the record every five minutes? What a thoughtful decision….



The Way Things Swell
is out now. Buy here on Amazon .

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