The Front Bottoms - Talon of the Hawk | Album Review | By Volume

The kid that went down isn't dead; he just can't find his phone. The Hold Steady - Almost Everything

The Front Bottoms

Talon of the Hawk

What you call smart and careful is seriously slipping out of control.

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Author: on June 18, 2013
Bar/None Records
May 21, 2013

Talon of the Hawk is an awkward fucking album. If it knows itself, it knows its flaws best; only half-way into opener “Au Revoir (Adios)”, the stuttering mis-communication finds no other recourse but to fully crash to rock, both musical and verbal. What says more, though, is how it emerges for a final breath, without really knowing why.

The Front Bottoms’ essence is in all these accidental impulses, little moments of beauty or poignancy tucked in alongside, you know, real things. The endlessly charming “Twin Size Mattress”, which begins a solemn Weakerthans song and winds up as the Wonder Years, traps itself inside a cyclic melody during its verses only to blow off the lid in two different, equally breathtaking ways: first an emotive harmony, and second a yelled plea. “I wanna contribute to the chaos! / I don’t wanna watch, and then complain! ‘Cause I am through finding blame / That is a decision that I have made!” Such conviction comes and goes both instrumentally and lyrically, making for a fractured, engrossing and disorienting listening experience, one loaded with fist pumps but equally with moments where the fingers unfurl in slight hesitation.

Despite this to-and-fro mentality, Talon of the Hawk carries itself solidly in its charm and its sideways hops. “Come on Chelsea, speak a little French for me / Heard you spent two whole semesters drinking wine!” trembles out with too much cynicism to stand as folk-rock, just before shuddering into a less persistent rhythm for a chorus; in these moments it’s the band’s fidgety-but-grinning nature that carries the load. The Front Bottoms weave narrow melodies with glances to others, grinding out that mischievous kind of ingrained hook in the strangest places, but there’s maturity in some of these tense twists and turns, too – see the backing vocals at the close of “Back Flip” and the aforementioned close of “Twin Size Mattress”‘ first carousel verse.

“Sometimes I don’t feel like singing,” Brian Sella smirks on closer “Everything I Own”, but he doesn’t let it slip out – it’s a deliberate and direct assertion, just as when he mumbles, later, “I don’t want this, you don’t want this / It’ll probably go further than either of us want it.” Mixed with its tangential fills, texture changes and throwaway self-analyses, lines like this round Talon of the Hawk to a stone just smooth enough to hold. The Front Bottoms seemingly build themselves on humble mission statements – to be honest, to be passionate, and to be free – and are restless enough not to need to compromise; when the balance these songs search for holds true, The Front Bottoms sound capable of enormity, but for now, it’s amply enough to know exactly what they mean.

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