I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business
At the turn of the new millennium, things were looking up for Ace Enders. The singer and his band, the Early November, were part of a jam-packed Drive-Thru Records roster that sold more than just music to consumers: During its golden years, the label marketed an entire pop-punk culture. But while labelmates such as New Found Glory, Something Corporate and the Starting Line went on to varying degrees of major-label success, the Early November could never quite get over the proverbial hump. The band enjoyed a passionate fanbase, but even though they didn’t really publicly air their frustration about lack of mainstream success, you get the sense there was at least some amount of “Why not us?” floating around the Early November camp.
On Gold Rush, Enders’ fourth album with the post-TEN project I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business, the singer might be ready to let go of some long-running disappointment. Amid a flurry of egg-shaker percussion and steady, syncopated guitar strums, Enders seems to opine about his time with the Early November on Gold Rush’s opening track: “After the gold rush/I didn’t think I’d be alone,” he sings before confessing, “It’s tough being copper when all your friends are gold… After the gold rush/I thought I’d be someone.” But while Enders might still be concerned with the past, Gold Rush proves his future is bright. Just as I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody’s Business’ last proper album, The World We Know, found Enders stripping his songwriting chops down to a bare minimum and favoring intimate, minimalist moments over blaring, guitar-driven rock, Gold Rush marks yet another style shift. These nine songs range from jazzed up rhythms (“Connected”) and U2-lite guitar lines and pitter-patter drums (“Lame Duck,” the disc’s catchiest track and one of Enders’ best songs ever) to slow-burners reminiscent of classic Jimmy Eat World (“Misery,” “Train Stop”). Overall, Enders’ jazzy take on the singer-songwriter template is a welcome addition to his ever-growing book of tricks, even if the tracks could use a bit more variation to avoid sounding interchangeable at times.
But while the music might be generally upbeat and breezy, Enders’ lyrics reveal that Gold Rush is ultimately an album made in the face of adversity, something that takes repeated listens to fully realize. The disc was funded almost primarily via a Kickstarter project after the singer revealed the growing financial strain of balancing a family and a full-time music career had grown too difficult. And on the album, Enders writes about being disenfranchised (the title track), broke (“Misery”) and perhaps ambitious to a fault (“Don’t Leave Me”). But when he sings, “It’s a hard climb to the other side/You will fall down, but you have to try/Reach your hands, and grab it again” on the album-closing “Train Stop,” you get the feeling that in spite of all the hardship and unfairness that’s plagued Enders’ career until now, he’s determined to not go down without a fight.