Lee Corey Oswald‘s latest album is a fantastic step forward for the Portland based punk/rock act. Darkness, Together forms this particular sound of small town America, desperation, emotional loss, growing up, and dreams of something bigger. It’s an album I didn’t give the time it deserves in 2018, but truly grew to love as I listened through.
The band has put together a great sound over time, with some iconic lyrical shaping through their past releases, and that continues on for Darkness, Together. Lee Corey Oswald originated from Scranton in Pennsylvania, building themselves in the vibrant punk scene alongside bands such as Title Fight and Tigers Jaw. However after moving to Portland, they took the lifestyle and indie scene from the area and weaved influence from it into their sound. There’s an emotional urgency at times, but also contemplation and poetic strings of thought, notably within the track “Neighborhoods.” Lee Ellis, the vocalist, ponders the idea of a regular life and expectations in a suburban neighborhood, building to a beautiful delivery of “As your kids grow they’ll help in the garden, go to school, just to learn it’s not what they belong in.”
Musically the band naturally shifts through faster punk sounds and this incredibly catchy rolling flow. The first track “Asbury Waters” has a heavier sound, with more emphasis placed on each tone, and a rather deliberate delivery. This transitioning into the fuzzy and bright ‘Neighborhoods’ shows the range of the band, keeping their own flavor across their styles. Thematically they do the same, melding the different ideas they’re playing with and seamlessly flowing from one to another. There’s the idea of growing up, escaping expectations and subverting cliche to live your own life. This features across “Asbury Waters,” into a different form through “Neighborhoods,” then is placed much more firmly through “You Want To Be Right or Happy.” The tracks discuss running from the past, denying the present, and the darkness of the future.
There’s so much to identify with in the current climate, from stories of alienation in the suburbs, growing up, love and loss from friends to the bands we all cherish. ‘Desperate,’ despite the repetition of ‘You’re in love, in love, in love‘ and ‘We’re in love, in love, in love,’ subverts a love song into the idea of his love for someone, who loves another, yet they still both feel a love which gives them a togetherness in the protagonist’s mind. “Free Stuff” perfectly encapsulates a satirical presentation of how we all do what we need to get by in the modern day, whilst “Curse Words” goes back to the other side of suburban living in moving back in with your mother and helping her out.
But where all these themes so brilliantly captured come together is in the final track, “Darkness, Together (11/20/85).” The loss of a friend puts everything into perspective, and contemplating how to cope with a world that keeps moving on past you. The closing lines to the song are all too relatable, ‘And all the bands that we would talk about, if only you were still around.’ The desperation for just one more conversation on something which draws so many people together. The name of the album truly matches what it discusses, the idea of darkness, depression, and all these negative things, and how we experience it together, even if apart.