After a prolonged period of inactivity, it was becoming uncomfortably safe to refer to No Trigger in the past tense. It seemed that like so many other hardcore bands, they were destined to burn out as fast as they set the scene on fire. That was six years ago, following the universally acclaimed Canyoneer. Praised by critics and fans in equal measure for both its energy and musicality; No Trigger’s sophomore album was already destined to be recklessly compared against a modern classic, despite the goodwill generated by their return. But while Tycoon might not make as big a splash as Canyoneer, it proves itself to be the better record. The words of the anthemic “New Brains” sum my feelings up perfectly: “I’m not afraid to waste my breath on happiness.”
It seems that since the beginning of punk rock and its stand against musical bombast and complexity, it has slowly been reincorporating all of the influences it once abhorred. Some might see this as the genre diluting itself, but I think it’s a positive progression. With many bands using more and more technical guitar parts while advancing their songwriting skills, its safe to say that punk is becoming unpredictable again. But the reclaiming of technique isn’t selling out, it is a chance to utilize music in new and exciting ways. With the skeleton of punk rock reinforcing these new influences; speed, honesty, and aggression are not sacrificed. No Trigger are definitely a hardcore band at heart, but the surrounding muscles and vital organs are steeped in melody and musicianship.
The guitar work on Tycoon is rhythmically tight and informed by the specifics of what any particular song needs. “Insider (Executive/Amputee)” lets the guitar work become as much a part of the bridge as the words by featuring a slinking melody that is carried by aggressively chugging power chords. The result expresses a growing tension that feels like a time bomb ticking off seconds to an inevitable explosion. Typified by fast moving riffs and melodic exploration, No Trigger diversifies briefly by putting less emphasis on the former for a slowed down arpeggio-ridden opening on “New Brains,” before blasting forward with the fast and intense musical assault that they are so acclaimed for. For the duration of Tycoon, the energy put forth by the band is enormous and admirable, No Trigger never feels like they’re phoning it in.
Tom Rheault’s sung-at-the-edge-of-hoarseness vocal style lends No Trigger’s songs a certain amount of strained presence, constantly walking the line between melodic virtuoso and the more traditional screamed shouts of hardcore. Rheault uses both techniques well; with an emphasis on singing, saving his screams for crescendo moments. The usual genre conventions are present; woahs provide the appropriate vowel sounds for solid backup vocals, and instruments occasionally drop out to let the vocals take center stage. Despite a sometimes devout adherence to form, No Trigger uses the framework not to paint by numbers but to provide an outlet for emotion as much as songwriting. This time around, personal issues dominate political ones; but the writing is clever and works as poetry with ease. As if taking notes from a high school English teacher, metaphor and alliteration are employed confidently enough to make the lyrics flow when sung and pensive enough to ponder when read. A theme of self reclamation is developed in a couple of tracks; “New Brains” has its aforementioned pursuit-of-happiness refrain, and the next track “Permanent” continues the theme with “Nothing can come in between what I love and who I am, I will not pretend that everything is permanent.” Taking aim at societal expectation and its often bloody battle with personal ambition, No Trigger are obsessively repossessing their own lives.
Tycoon is a predictable record, in the sense that no one thought No Trigger was going to release something sub par. Its quality is no surprise to anyone, and in that lies the greatest compliment No Trigger could ever receive.