Words by Bill San Antonio
First, a declarative, somewhat hyperbolic statement: No band currently making music has a better pulse on what it means to be an early 20-something than Balance and Composure.
Next, an attempt at a more insightful one: it took the 13 songs on their sophomore LP, The Things We Think We’re Missing, for them to achieve this.
Sure, the material that appears on The Things We Think We’re Missing sounds an awful lot like that from their 2010 full-length debut, Separation, but Balance and Composure have finally struck a balance between the perpetual raincloud of their subject matter and the restrained aggression of their instrumentation.
It’s obvious the band assessed what went right with the writing and production of Separation and what went wrong, and the resulting work is a second album that effortlessly avoids the clichéd slump most musicians find themselves in after pouring their souls into their first record.
We know this, of course, thanks to a video the band released in late summer in which its members each made comments to the effect that the songs on The Things We Think We’re Missing finally sound the way Balance and Composure are supposed to sound. Whereas Separation contained an amalgamation of sometimes rushed and jumbled parts pieced together into catchy, yet crude recreations of tracks that appeared on the band’s two EPs, The Things We Think We’re Missing is crisp and inventive, taking all the proper cues from the catalogues of their bored and angry older brothers, Smashing Pumpkins and Deftones.
And what does each band have in common? At their absolute peak, they channeled the post-teenage years more realistically than the radio darlings and prepackaged bestsellers ever could. Balance and Composure have been passed the torch of exploring the hypocrisy of the early 20-something: From yearning for deeper relationships to the reluctance to making oneself vulnerable, from wallowing broken-heartedly one moment to crawling out of the pit of despair the next, from having nothing to say but demanding the world hear you anyway.
Throughout the album, the band searches for what it means to be a happy and healthy adult, the most standard theme of the 20-something, right down to its name – The Things We Think We’re Missing, from ourselves, from our relationships, from the world as it was described to us as children.
Balance and Composure glean from life experiences better than their peers who rip directly from the headlines of former flames and off-kilter context, instead using gut-wrenching moments as starting points toward catharsis. Who Delilah is isn’t nearly as important as the psychological train wreck she left in her wake.
But more than the increased variety in singer Jon Simmons’ vocals, from his typical scream-singing on tracks like “Parachutes” and “Lost Your Name” to the exasperated shrieks that conclude “Notice Me,” or the cryptic metaphors peppered in the band’s lyrics, what works best on The Things We Think We’re Missing is the ambiance of the finished product. Angry words – nay, angry themes – merit angrier hooks. The carpet finally matches the drapes.
Balance and Composure beautifully arranges each song, reaching new heights in their musicianship. The album takes off with three increasingly aggressive tracks only to be followed up by the instrumental “Ella” to slow things down, a song centered around a dirty, oppressive and foreboding bass part. The dreary acoustic cut “Dirty Head,” toward the end of the record, matches the powerful emotion as songs like “Back of Your Head” or “Cut Me Open” despite being stripped of the fast, grungy riffs that have become the bedrock of the band’s melodies.
Balance and Composure have toed that line so many times, between who the world expects it to be and who it knows in its heart it is. But with The Things We Think We’re Missing, the future is bright, if however uncertain.
“The Things We Think We’re Missing”
No Sleep Records
© September 10th, 2013
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