Photo Credit: Wyatt Clough
Ten studio albums in and Alberta, Canada’s Silverstein have yet to achieve any notable commercial success. Their 2015 release I Am Alive in Everything I Touch did go Top 20 in their native land (and Top 40 in the US), but otherwise the world has been slow in taking notice of the band. Part of it could be a degree of name confusion with the more prolific Silversun Pickups. However, sad to say it may also have a bit to do with the fact that there is just too much of what they’re offering, musically, already out there, at least if Silverstein’s latest release, A Beautiful Place to Drown, is any indication.
Right from opening cut “Bad Habits”, we already get the clear indication of another band attempting to split the difference between pop punk and hardcore, putting forth boy-next-door sensibility via the lead vocals – attempting to sound somewhat innocent but hopefully not too whiney – which then give way to other parts of the song which are suddenly – here it comes! – screamed. It’s as if to relay the underlying theme of “Yes, I’m the boy next door, but I’m totally screwed up.” Well, okay, that’s not a direct quote, and truth be told several of the early cuts on the album do suggest that the band is capable of creating some clever and genuinely heartfelt lyrics, as on “Burn it Down” (“I’m sick of being deceived // With a blindfold on while I’m looking for a savior”).
“Infinite” does create sort of an interesting and endearing mini-opera (at least as much of one as you can do in under three minutes), and the song is otherwise a strong balance of varying melody styles. A number of other nice surprises do turn up throughout A Beautiful Place to Drown, particularly on “All on Me”, which slows everything down – initially – before rocking out and finally giving way to a completely “WTF?” but still very pleasant smooth jazz saxophone break (yes, you read that correctly). It’ll feel like listening to terrestrial radio and having another song on another station suddenly overlap the one you’ve been listening to, yet it works.
“Madness” is much more in line with the rest of the tracks – yup, there’s the screaming, right on cue – but offers several unexpected turns, with a chorus that has almost a Seventies classic rock feel, along with a brief rap section. “Say Yes!”, as the title might indicate, is the album’s “happiest” song, if only by default, and the refreshing irony can be found in the fact that the lyrics – “I’m a silhouette talking to myself // I’m the lights left on in an abandoned house” – seem to suggest that the theme of the song is self-created isolation (something of a timely subject in late March 2020, when this review is being written).
Time will tell whether or not at this stage of their career, Silverstein will sink or swim based on the response to this release. But for fans of the pop punk/hardcore genre, A Beautiful Place to Drown might not be a bad place to spend thirty-seven minutes and six seconds. All others should tread with caution.