If I could only use a single word to describe the music on The Architects’ Border Wars (Episode 1), (the first installment of a planned five part series), it would be “swagger”.
I don’t mean it in the same sense that the kids do these days when they say “swag” and then instagram a mirror shot of themselves in a brand new baseball cap. No, I mean it in the same sense that one would mean when discussing Mick Jagger, or possibly even Paul Westerberg. The Architects have no shame in flaunting their dirty rock and roll influences all over Border Wars, and they make it work from them. From the chorus of EP opener “Peter Fonda” to the lead guitar of closing track “The Shivers”, Border Wars is rock and roll stripped down to its purest elements. It’s hard to believe that the three key members of the Architects were once known as the ska-punk band The Gadjits.
Musically, Border Wars is pretty tight, and there are only six songs so it never outstays its welcome. There are a couple of lyrical stumbles (the “get money, get paid” line from “I Chose Wrong” in particular is kind of silly), but the band boasts these lyrics with such confidence that it’s easy to overlook and just have fun with it. That said, the music makes up only half of Border Wars. The other half of the release takes the form of a comic book, also titled Border Wars, and it’s much less exciting than the music.
The artwork has a dirty feel to it much like the songs, but that’s pretty much where the similarities stop. Maybe it’s just because the full story isn’t presented in Border Wars (Episode 1) (and I’m completely willing to give it the benefit of the doubt), but everything is muddy- there’s plenty of action (an execution, a young lady gets hit by a car, the town Sheriff slits another woman’s throat), but there’s not enough exposition. There’s no real reason yet to care about why these things are happening. Not to mention that the events of the story don’t ever seem to correspond with the lyrics of the songs- which begs the question: How is this even a concept album?
It’s entirely possible that as Border Wars progresses everything will fall into place. The lyrics and music will be reflected within the characters and their decisions, and that in the end it will become a very engrossing story on the same level as Tommy, Purple Rain, or (to use a more contemporary example), American Idiot. But for now trying to understand how the music and the comic work together is confusing, coming off more similarly to the stories of The Amory Wars or 21st Century Breakdown. There’s still hope that the remaining four volumes remedy this problem. Even if they don’t, at least the music is good.
You can stream Border Wars (Episode 1) in its entirety right here.