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You know, I remember a time when the term ‘emo’ or, a little prouder, ‘emotional rock’ wasn’t a derogatory term. I remember when bands like Hot Water Music, Thursday, Alkaline Trio (the early stuff anyways), Jimmy Eat World, fuck, even Fugazi, fell under this poignant and furious style of music. When the genre was a little less Alesana and a little more Saetia; turn down the cute and pump up the anger. Well, with their second full-length, “End Measured Mile,” as their testament it’s pretty clear that the boys in Make Do And Mend remember those great days probably even better than I do.
Now, though it is almost impossible to talk about Make Do and Mend without name dropping at least two of the aforementioned bands (especially Hot Water Music and Jimmy Eat World) unlike most of their contemporaries, the band wears their influences proudly on their sleeves but work hard at crafting songs that are purely and surely Make Do And Mend’s original creations. The band opens things up with the aggressive yet positive “Unknowingly Strong”, which right from the get go with its swirling guitar lead and explosive drums, sets the chilly mood for the rest of the album. I say chilly because there’s something particularly ‘cold’ about Make Do and Mend’s sound, at least I always envision images of blizzards and frozen seas when listening to their music.
Instrumentally, Make Do And Mend are one of the coolest band in this new wave of emo-punk. While most of the bands they’ve shared a stage or a split with figure more for the more aggressive ‘screamo’ side of the genre, Make Do And Mend are much more collected and controlled. Not to say that their music is mechanical or fake, on the contrary, it’s this control that grants them an unforgiving and honest emotion. The balance between their more contained moments and their more caustic instrumentation keeps them in control of the songs, giving it the little ups, downs and surprises when necessary. None of the songs on this release sound repetitive or annoying or even half-assed; all of them have the same level of thought and work gone into them and it shows. Take the cathartic “Ghostal” for example, with its mid-tempo intro only to strain and explode into possibly the biggest sounding chorus Make Do and Mend has to offer, transitioning beautifully into the verse before the instruments abruptly (but commendably) kick back to allow vocalist James O. room to bloody up his pipes with the help from La Dispute vocalist, Jordan Dreyer. Though passionate and cascading, it’s awesome to see how in control Make Do And Mend are in this release. It’s a controlled yet honest and sharp emotion that’s hard to find in any genre these days.
As important as the instrumental aspect of the band is, this is a genre that benefits greatly from its vocal delivery and the poetry of their lyrics and honestly. As tight as they are musically, James O’s vocal and lyrical contribution is what truly makes this band shine. Now, I could be wrong (though I doubt it) but it’s pretty obvious that James is the one who writes the lyrics; Sometimes you can just tell, because, man, does he feel what he sings. His bipolar voice fits Make Do And Mend’s sound beautifully as he transitions between his simply gorgeous melodic voice and his whiskey-soaked roar with an ease not seen in this kind of music since the last Hot Water Music release. It’s his voice that makes the beginning lines of “Thanks” what they are as he confidently sings “Well, I’ve been waiting in your waves up to my chin/Sinking slowly, deeper as the waves roll in/Losing sight of land I’m wondering how did I ever trick myself to get back in?” and the screaming “You were the one that got away and now we’re forced to sit by helpless and watch you sinking like your ghost into the pacific waves” in “Ghostal” so convincing. His lyrics on love, loss, fading friendships and the grinding stone of touring may not be the most original of themes, but he stears the ship clear of any clichés or metaphors that sadly often plague this style of music.
I’ve really got nothing bad to say about this release, or frankly this band. What we have here are the blood, sweat and tears of one of the hardest working bands in punk rock today, a shinning milestone for both the band and the entire genre. “End Measured Mile,” from beginning to end, is simply outstanding.