A brief note on the joy of If There Is Light It Will Find You
RIYL: Bayside, New Found Glory, Silverstein
I have never been the biggest Senses Fail fan...at least not for their music. Let It Enfold you is a landmark record in the screamo and emo scenes, and with good reason, but something about it always put me off. Still Searching was harder, roughing up some of the clean edges in Nielsen's nasal singing and showing some beastly screaming skills while showing a lot of confidence in their sound, but for the most part I viewed Senses Fail as one of the more "scene" bands and unconsciously dismissed them. Fifteen years past the Summer of Screamo, however, Senses Fail have come into their own. From an upstart scene band to a hardcore mainstay that fights constantly and tirelessly for a more authentic punk and hardcore world, the band has gone through a really interesting evolution. Nielsen, meanwhile, has found himself bearing the mantle of acting as much of the collective scene's conscience--his open struggles with addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, depression and sexuality are chronicled not only in his music but through countless interviews and open letters to editors. Beyond that he has stood like St. George in the face of overly-capitalist, misogynistic, sexist, homophobic, and racist elements that constantly threaten to encroach upon the fringes of our scene--calling out bands and organizations on their bullshit and generally lamenting general trends and philosophies as they evolve within the hardcore world. And yet for all of this he and they have gotten little thanks--after six full length records the band has largely plateaued, along with the likes of other Summer of Screamo notables, Silverstein--who have always released decent, solid-to-good records but never quite reached the heights reserved for the likes of The Used or Hawthorne Heights.
As crowds have waned and events like Emo Nite have sounded the false deathknell on a still very much alive and vibrant, if somewhat long-in-the-tooth scene, Senses Fail have persisted, carrying the banner for a whole class of bands with quiet but assured confidence. Many, myself included, questioned their continued relevancy or questioned their ability to write a record as good as those within their own oeuvre considered hallowed classics.
Well, as it happens, the band, themselves, were asking that selfsame question. The answer is If There is Light, It Will Find You--a triumphant, ecstatic, reverent, and at times challenging record that could not be more successful in its aim--completely re-framing the band's legacy and firmly establishing them, beyond a shadow of a doubt, as the standard bearers of authentic, hearfelt, earnest music.
Given the band's nasally quality and the emo moniker--that is most often used as shorthand for easy insults and allegations of sophomoric and immature approaches to emotional intelligence--it seems strange to say that. But th e band themselves address it throughout the record--not only reminding the audience lyrically of the band's history and evolution, but with mature themes--fatherhood, responsibility, fear of the death of a partner. These are not the "boy meets girl/boy loses girl and feels shitty" lyrics of days of yore. Thsi is something entirely new, meant specifically for the audience that has aged with the music. Senses Fail are acutely aware that 15 years have passed, the world has moved on, their lives have moved on, their fan's lives have moved on, and they embrace that change. They make few apologies for the lives they have lived or the music they have made--to do so would be to condescend to their own history as well as the scene's and their fan's intelligences. Instead, the band acknowledge their history, using it as a springboard to carry themselves to new heights throughout the record--and boy, howdy what heights they reach.
This record is a love letter--to the scene, to their peers, to the band's history, to their fan's, to maturing if not growing up. Its the kind of heartfelt earnesty that brings prideful tears to my eyes. Senses Fail, 15 years after their supposed "heydey" are going to win over a whole new audience for whoever gives the time to listen. They sure as hell made me a believer--you'll be able to catch me in my brand-spankin-new Senses Fail tee and at every concert of theirs I can get to.