ROADSIDE GRAVES – ” Acne​/​Ears “

Posted: July 16, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Over the span of their first five albums, the Roadside Graves were quintessential, New Jersey roots-rock storytellers, with songs full of empathetic third-person narratives. On their fifth album, and first for the esteemed Don Giovanni label, they are ready to tell their own. At its best, Acne/Ears unassumingly places itself within reach of New Jersey’s A-list of confessional indie rockers.

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It’s as unflattering as you’d expect from a song called “Acne/Ears”, two facial features that seem to exist for the sole purpose of causing adolescent embarrassment. “Some boys are filled with piss and vinegar/ Some boys are filled with just pus and blood,” John Gleason sings, recalling the days when his breakouts were so profuse, he didn’t even bother going to school. It’s similar to Strand of Oaks’ breakthrough single “Goshen ’97”, in which a sullen teen finds relief by singing terribly in the mirror even when he could hardly bear to look at himself.

John Gleason’s creaking vocals about a lonesome kid holed up in his bedroom. There is a larger scope here, as if that kid finds a suburbia full of other holed-up kids, but it’s when they get together, when they are just “boys in basements making noise” that the song erupts into rollicking, full-band joy. We see much of the louder joy and frustration of this record rise out of solitary quiet. On string-laden “Endangered”, Gleason calls for help because he’s in danger “just like the fish in the sea.” On Acne/Ears, trouble isn’t really a change in the program but more like the same come down. Sometimes, on the heartbreaking loss of “The Whole Night”, it’s too much to bear. Other times, on “Gospel Radio” for instance, it’s the music that makes it all bearable, that can turn pain and closed bedroom doors into wide open spaces of sound, into release. Like the suburbs these songs sound born from, Acne/Ears sprawls outward, in a few small moments almost too far, but in the end the record keeps its shape while offering surprising turns throughout. For Roadside Graves, it’s not about escaping the pain, it’s about making something bigger than it.

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