Take a step back into yester-year—the years your delicate musical tastes were budding and impressionable. When anything emotional was groundbreaking, and stuttering, half-spoken syllables hit your heart like a bulls-eye painted on your chest. Nowadays, surely your tastes have become more refined and, in a word, you’ve gotten picky. Things can’t just be heavy or catchy, but rather, they must combine the two in a previously unheard of way. The same criteria apply to emotion and passion—it takes more than screeched vocals and bitter slurs to simulate those same feelings of heartbreak. It’s situations like these which often ring a death knell for your favorite acts of yester-year, and modern day bands which follow in their footsteps. However, even in spite of clear similarities to acts like GlassJaw and Letlive. alike, New Jersey’s latest-and-greatest post-hardcore act, Franchise avoid that pitfall entirely. With their debut self-titled album, Franchise combine influences from veterans of emotional hardcore, post-hardcore and skramz a like while adding a fresh and new aggressive slant that makes their release a true standout in a time where brand new post-hardcore bands are a dime a dozen—to put it lightly.
Franchise establish themselves from the get-go as a multitalented band, ambushing the listener with a variety of attacks one might not expect from a 2013 post-hardcore act. One of the principle aspects of this is the boundless amounts of aggression which punctuate Franchise like oxford commas and exclamation points. Harsh, grating vocals and sarcastic, bitter lyrics make the album opener, “Life Sucker” venomous enough to do its name justice, while “Fake Madrid” is armed to the teeth with dissonant, hard-hitting riffs and a climactic bone-busting breakdown. True, it isn’t uncommon for post-hardcore acts to toss in “this one’s for the kids” chugs and over-the-top, out-of-place heaviness—however, this isn’t the case with Franchise. Each moment of grisly, gut-wrenching anger and shoulder-snapping heaviness is perfectly placed to provide a new and unexpected twist to the tale told in each track. Whether it’s the strained vocals and thrashy instrumentation in “Middle Aged Kids” or the no-holds-barred brutality in the climax of “Pyramid Waves,” the aggression found throughout Franchise’s self titled debut is well-placed and even more importantly, well-executed.
The second face to the two-headed dynamic which composes Franchise’s self-titled album is one of uncompromising emotion. Within the raw, gritty fretwork and the visceral, strained vocals there lies a GlassJaw-like element to Franchise which catches the listener completely off guard, and will make veteran post-hardcore listeners feel right at home. The introductions to both “Fake Madrid” and “Number One Contender” are stellar examples of this—the vocals oscillate from ranted, stream-of-consciousness singing to grating, bitter screams at the drop of a hat, while the guitar screeches and riffs along. In the background, pummeling drums and splashy cymbals nail down a dancy, head-bobbing beat which is just dissonant enough to sound off-kilter, but still thrashy and bouncy enough to fit. “Fade In/Grab You” and “Strobe” utilize a more tactful approach, favoring nearly-crooned singing which almost sounds too clean to be coming from the same throat which screams out the harsh, relentless anger in “Life Sucker,” which came only minutes before. It’s how smoothly Franchise can flow between heartbroken bitterness and heartbreaking emotion which makes them such a stand-out act.
While each component of Franchise’s debut is outstanding in its own right, the fact that both aspects work so well together is what is truly remarkable. “Fake Madrid” is one such example of this. Beginning with catchy, bouncy instrumentation and relatable, emotional vocals, the listener is led into the song completely unaware of the heaviness they are about to experience. However, as the song progresses, the pressure builds—the dirt getting shoveled on top of the listener’s coffin builds and builds—until finally, the breaking point is reached and the tedious tower of emotional tenacity Franchise had constructed comes tumbling down in a fit of passion and aggression. While “Fake Madrid” does it with marked efficacy, many other tracks on the album use a similar tactic—“Pyramid Waves” especially. This dynamic blends each mastered aspect of the bands otherworldly dynamic into one crushing, emotionally-driven steamroller which will flatten the listener over and over again.
Next time you’re feeling reminiscent for the bands of yesterday, and the styles which pulled so delicately at your heartstrings (until they snapped)—don’t don the rose glasses of nostalgia. Instead, pick up Franchise’s debut self-titled release and give it a listen or five. Inside its deep trenches and seedy alleys you will find a cornucopia of modern-day maliciousness and tried-and-true emotion which blends perfectly into an all-new experience which will leave you breathless and gasping for air—and the next track.
For Fans Of: GlassJaw, letlive., Stray From the Path, Norma Jean, ForDireLifesSake
By: Connor Welsh