October 26, 2010 - Tooth & Nail
In the second pre-chorus of “Birmingham,” the lead track on the Almost’s Monster Monster EP, frontman Aaron Gillespie pleads, “I wanna be just what I need to be/I'm getting free just like I gotta be,” over punchy guitars and a militant rhythm once-removed from Green Day’s “Holiday.” Then a big catchy chorus erupts, with Gillespie confessing, “This whole thing makes me sick/I'm so tired of dealing with it/I'm so mixed up/Used and bruised up.” Considering it’s been less than a year since Gillespie bailed from Christian metalcore heavyweights Underoath, where he spent some 14 years behind the kit, the aforementioned lyrics seem particularly weighted; they set a tone for the rest of the collection that’s appreciably more impassioned than your standard B-sides compilation.
Essentially, the five-song Monster Monster EP is a packet of spare parts—“Me And Alone” was an iTunes bonus track for the Monster Monster full-length; Best Buy’s fan pack version for that release contained “Out West” and “Wrong”; “July” and “Birmingham” are two additional bonus tracks. The overall quality of the material, which includes some definite playlist-worthy moments, is a testament to the perks of modern, extras-driven music marketing, and to the Almost’s obvious skill as songwriters.
It’s actually kind of absurd that a song as appealing as “Out West” ended up on the cutting floor; it’s like a power-pop answer to Bruce Springsteen’s immortal “Thunder Road,” with staccato-picked verses and dreamy steel guitar, racing into another towering chorus sung over Tom Petty chords cranked to 11. “Me And Alone” flirts with woozy dream pop, then builds into vocal bombast; overdriven guitars and a pulsing rhythm give “July” a toothy grind that’s expertly capped by Gillespie’s electric vocals. If these are leftovers, we’ll take another doggie bag, please.