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16th October 2017

Review: TWIABP – Always Foreign

Ciaran McLaughlin discusses how the new album re-treads familiar ground and fails to try anything new or different

Before we start, can I just stress that this band’s name is too long? It’s real mouthful, and equally pretentious. Their full title — The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die — is too long, even when abbreviated. So I’ll use an abbreviation of an abbreviation: TWIABP.

This is now something the band have become aware of themselves, as they’ve seen it be parodied in memes. That’s all well and good, but edgy t-shirts and funny tweets only get you so far as musicians. So where does this leave their 3rd album Always Foreign then? Well, I’m not too sure.

TWIABP stick to the very familiar ground, with an album that sounds very similar to past efforts. What they do is good, but with very few new ideas, and that mix of Midwestern emo, indie rock, and post-rock doesn’t quite give the same kick it used to. In a world where the emo revival is growing larger and more saturated, they need to do more to differentiate themselves.

This album is a more stripped back affair and could be compared to their debut Whenever, If Ever, which comes as a disappointment. The epicness of Harmlessness seems less present.

Some of the longer tracks on the second half like ‘Marine Tigers’ and ‘Infinite Steve’ are grand and epic, played with lots of instruments, but as stated before, it isn’t anything too different from what they have done before. In fact, the solo violin on ‘Infinite Steve’ sounds very similar to the one found on ‘January 10th 2014’. That being said, there are still highlights on the album and they do show off what they can do as a band.

The biggest difference is the lyrics in the first half of the album. The writing process for Always Foreign coincided with Trump becoming president and guitarist Nicole Shanholtzer, who was married to bandmate Katie Dvorak, departing from the band. ‘Hilltopper’ starts with “Can’t seem to erase you. I threw out all the records you’re on.” It’s packed with vitriol and hate and is a far cry from anything they have done before.

Instrumentally the album is varied. Synths, violins and trumpets are scattered throughout and are well-performed. They show what the band can do, but when they decide to go for a more stripped back pop-punk and indie rock sound it leaves you wanting more.

This is more present in the first half than the second, with tracks like ‘I’ll Make Everything’ and ‘The Future’. It feels safe and boring, especially from a band that can have an expansive sound.

While Always Foreign is a good album, there isn’t really much that distinguishes it from the band’s past discography or even the genre. Even just looking at this year, albums from Brand New, Sorority Noise and Remo Drive are more worthy of your time.

If you were looking for more of the same, then you’ll find some enjoyment in Always Foreign that’s for sure, but you can’t help but wonder what could have been. Maybe there is an unintentional lesson in it all; maybe TWIABP, and by extension, we, should spend less time procrastinating on the internet because this will be the end result.


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