Even though the Connecticut collective have earned themselves a loyal and fervent fanbase thanks to a tireless work ethic and a number of first-class releases, it seemed like one of the group’s tongue-in-cheek Facebook posts when the news was announced.
However, when you analyse it, the move makes sense. TWIABP have been getting progressively better and more interesting, and their most recent work has been among their best. This year alone, ‘Harmlessness’ is the group’s third proper release this year (excluding their April Fool’s Day lathe cut vinyl), and follows on from a couple of excellent singles, and last year’s polarising spoken-word collaboration with Chris Zizzamia, ‘Between Bodies’ (personally, I thought it was wonderfully expressive and engaging).
The flipside is that it’s a huge leap of faith by Epitaph. Sure, the label is experiencing a revival thanks to the likes of Joyce Manor, The Menzingers, Pianos Become The Teeth and Desaparecidos, but TWIABP are a world away from its traditional sound.
Throwing in elements of post-rock, playful pop punk and indie-rock, TWIABP’s labyrinthine sound might take some getting used to. Yet ‘Harmlessness’ is considerably more focused and straightforward than the scattergun ‘Whenever, If Ever’, and that should translate well to new listeners. Opener ‘You Can’t Live There Forever’ is probably one of the most straight-forward songs the collective has ever written and it works beautifully, like an extension to last year’s ‘Between Bodies’, while the dark and bold ‘January 10th 2014’ was the perfect introduction as a first single.
Fortunately, they haven’t changed their sound at all and remain utterly beguiling throughout. Instead, they’ve just tightened the songwriting to brilliant effect. ‘I Can Be Afraid of Anything’, for example, is over 7 snaking minutes long, and builds to an almightily triumphant conclusion which takes you by surprise on the first couple of listens. It’s not wildly dissimilar to anything they’ve done before, but it’s clear they’ve mastered the art of pacing and the ability to build tension to an exciting release.
Combine this with some twisted pop songs – ‘Wendover’ in particular is a real showstopper – and you have an album that is every bit the equal of its critically acclaimed predecessor.
The big challenge for TWIABP was to make their idiosyncratic sound have more appeal without forsaking the art and artistry that makes them so exciting. Not only have TWIABP nailed it, ‘Harmlessness’ is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the albums of the year.
‘Harmlessness’ by The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die is released on September 25th on Epitaph Records.
Words by Rob Mair (@BobNightMair)