January 12, 2010 - Top Shelf
It's okay: You can call Pianos Become The Teeth screamo. The elites should be fine with it. When you take the spine-tingling collision of atmosphere and intensity that allowed acts like City Of Caterpillar and Funeral Diner--admitted influences--to become cult favorites and cake it with a concoction of melody and absolute desperation so realized Thursday would blush, it seems pretty allowable.
Old Pride begins with perhaps its best track, "Filial," which sprawls open a mighty wind of epic, fists-clenched aggression, the kind of restrained franticness that makes so much of La Quiete's discography rewarding. Musically, it's a stunning quality that really stands out in the next track, "Quit Benefit," too; the song has the kind of hook that's incredibly effective with only one repeat ("Decorating your walls!"), likely thanks to the longing in frontman Kyle Durfey's voice.
It's a formula the band largely follow for the first half of the record, but quite successfully at that. The appropriately titled "Pensive" slips through at the halfway mark, a song whose own first half is a much-needed break from the beautiful bashing preceding it; it's full of slower-moving, weeping octaves and Durfey deliberately yelping along until the full sound kicks in to remind us that the emotive tension will not let off until Old Pride's closing track, "Young Fire," which is emotionally choking even though it's only an instrumental.
Powerful moments are to be had aplenty, but "Cripples Can't Shiver" could represent them better than anything else. Guitars come in a more spiraling fashion and the bass prowls more devastatingly to set a foundation for a sympathetically poetic ode to the paralysis-stricken; the band make it work music and lyrics alone, but the heart-wrenching archival audio of an anonymous woman talking about her husband experiencing chronic aggressive multiple sclerosis just makes it cut that much deeper when Durfey sharply and repetitively shouts the title following the lady's tale of personal hardship.
Pianos Become The Teeth have quietly refined their craft over the last few years into an incredibly cathartic and sporadically chilling mode. Their screamo peers--past or present--should be more than envious.