Handguns new LP “Disenchanted” is fantastic: gleefully mawkish, rife with guitar riffs and drum fills, and so tantalizingly pulse-raising I almost overlooked the fact that it actually has a message.
You might wonder how I almost missed it, considering the entire album opens with lead singer Taylor Eby telling us (yes, telling – not singing, without any instruments) to “do what you love and fuck the rest.”
It’s a good message, and one which belies the rest of the album’s maudlin undertones (overtones?): Disenchanted has song titles like “The Worst in Me,” “My Lowest Point,” “Low Spirits,” and even “Bury Me,” with lyrics variously stating “I’m living proof of a tortured soul,” “I’m jaded, frustrated, and burned out/Expect the worst when I’m around” and “If I had just one wish, I’d drag you down with me/Hand in hand for eternity.”
Is it slightly over the top? Yes. Is it really fucking awesome? Yes.
Do you remember Billy Talent’s first album? “What you see is what you get/Fishing for the answers with a line and sinker/Look at me and don’t forget/Hard to get a grip with all these broken fingers” and “Need more friends with wings/All the angels I know put concrete in my veins.”
Was that slightly over the top? Yep. Was it really fucking awesome? YES.
Handguns have figured out a way to matter-of-factly deliver incredibly self-pitying lyrics, and their blatant honesty speaks of a human condition I think a lot of people choose to overlook. We all criticize ourselves, feel in low spirits, fear we’re going to bring other people down, and, yes, feel “disenchanted.” It takes a lot of self-confidence to sing openly about being a tortured soul, and while the album’s lyrics occasionally miss the mark and head into the realm of the bland and overly weepy (“Winter’s over/but I feel colder”), they are, for the vast majority, brave, introspective, and empathetic.
Now take into consideration the musical proficiency slathered over every song, the gorgeous fuck-it-ness of Eby’s screams, the abundant snare fills and guitar riffs (see track #4 “Low Spirits”) and it’s really difficult to find anything not to like.
My favourite track is the title track, #7, which opens with a few vocal false starts the band chose to leave in. This again speaks of their openness and musical honesty, and if you’ll let me get pretentious and make grandiose statements, that’s really important in music and it’s hard to find. I think a lot of the time people listen to music to find an empathetic connection with a band’s singer, who typically is the “voice” (not just the voice) of the band. Eby’s personality shines through in these songs, warts and all, and it’s what I liked best about the album.
Handguns are finishing up a headlining tour to support the release and you should really make an effort to go and see them.
They’re bringing honesty back into popular music (and it is popular – pop/punk with a pop emphasis, catchy choruses, clean vocals, an attention to accessibility) in the same way Louis CK brought honesty (and self-deprecation) into the comedic limelight, and in the same way Amy Schumer followed, and in the same way authors like Junot Diaz are popular.
Humans need to find empathetic voices in media and print, and we look for singers who feel the same way, authors who write without bullshit, comedians who find ways to laugh at themselves, and Handguns bring up the darker emotions we might be afraid to voice, the insecurities we’re told to not feel, the pain we feel isolates us from the world. They basically tell us we’re not alone.
I’m running over but my lack of praise for the rest of the band is not due to their deficiency in skill: Brandon Pagano, Kyle Vaught, and CJ Wilson are all fantastic and basically you should just buy this goddamn album.
I was supposed to do a lot of other work today but by listening and re-listening to this album I did what I love and fucked the rest, and I feel pretty fucking great.
1. Self Portrait
2. The Worst in Me
3. My Lowest Point
4. Low Spirits
5. Bury Me
6. Carbon Copy Elitist
8.Conjuring My Youth
9. Missed Calls