4 out of 5
Produced by: Zack Farrar (recorded and engineered by)
I thought I was reaching a little bit when the first Sunny Day Real Estate album came to mind as a reference point for Frail Body’s ‘A Brief Memoriam,’ but when other reviews and the press on the disc seemed to very much stress the “screamo” nature of the group, and how that’s intended to be a true extension of the emo genre, well, comparing it to the disc that kicked off a reinvention of the scene no longer seems far-fetched. …Although I’m not sure I’m necessarily using the comparison for the same reasons as the aforementioned others, as something that somewhat defined Sunny’s ‘Diary,’ for me, was its musical sloppiness – the way it seemed very busy and hurried and yet moodily depressed at the same time. If we’re just considering emo as “emotional” music, and screamo as yelly emo, then I’d think a good majority of Deathwish’s output would qualify.
Frail Body does meet both of those descriptions, though: well exemplified in opener Pastel, the rush of percussion and stuttering guitar and can’t-keep-up vocals are what reminded me of ‘Diary’ – it’s not math; it’s not clean; with producer Zack Farrar letting all the noise bleed together in much the same way producer Brad Wood did on Sunny’s disc – while vocalist Lowell Shaffer’s bleatings on loss definitely meet the lyrical and passion requirements as well.
When the group is operating in this amped up territory, ‘A Brief Memoriam’ is powerful stuff. Shaffer’s words are a bit open-ended, but in a way that I prefer: they’re thoughtful, just vague, which allows you to both think about their meaning but also apply your own situation and experiences to them. As Lowell screams at full volume, the group surges into these messy rockets of noise, with excess going on in the periphery in a non-distracting and intriguing fashion. Here and there, the group will attempt to blend this with slower paced stuff, more “traditional” emo rockings, and that’s where the disc doesn’t necessarily pay off – it’s just not as interesting as the all-out moments. However, that’s more the case when you group starts at 11 and then tries to wind it back down; starting out with a more paced groove before launching into intensity – as on Cold New Home, one of the disc’s best tracks, or closer Old Friends – works out really well.
The 20-minute runtime is, indeed, ‘Brief,’ but Frail Body’s release isn’t short on feeling or effort. Definitely a notable debut.