Elliott Smith once tunefully tutted “Amity, Amity, Amity” on his record XO before his untimely death in 2003. Ten years later in 2013, I’m doing the same thing.
The Amity Affliction’s 2010 release, Youngbloods was always going to be difficult act to follow after the Brisbane ‘hardcore’ troupe spent two years traveling the globe leaving sold out venues in their breakdown heavy wake. The sheer announcement of their record, Chasing Ghosts, in July of last year (2012) was met with criticism and horror. Vocalist, Joel Birch disclosed that the running theme through their latest effort would reference death and suicide. Although the two subjects have become renowned topics within both the heavy music community and Amity Affliction fanbase; Birch’s battle with depression is frequently discussed and embraced; the sight of a levitating/hanging Ahren Stringer, who adorns the record’s front cover sent a shockwave of controversy across the media. The band consequently went into damage control to state that the album was an effort to prevent suicide, not an act to romanticize fatalism.
“The cover’s the cover – it’s full on, but it’s going to get people opening a discussion about suicide and I think that’s a positive thing. It needs to be discussed. It gets swept under the carpet too much, in Australia especially.” – Joel Birch, Sep 2012.
With the release date coinciding not only with Suicide Prevention Day but Australia’s largest music conference, BigSound, Amity did their homework to get their message heard and I had ‘high hopes’ that it would open up that discussion. I agreed whole-heartedly with the sentiments that Amity were putting across for this record, and lyrically, it couldn’t have been more sound. Their eponymously titled lead single, Chasing Ghosts, is supported by the uplifting keys of Flowerbomb, the varying juxtapositions of speed and melody in the scathing Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the inspiring and emphatic, Open Letter, a track that has since become the band’s go to encore at live performances for the song’s message and the reaction it’s received.
Say what you will about the generic breakdowns, the cheesy synth samples and the oversaturated auto tune, it was refreshing to hear a modern metalcore record with a sense of purpose, intention and substance. In a debate over twitter with a friend, I agreed to disagree about the music’s quality but hoped that the band would do something with the record outside of the routine touring. Something within me pictured the band taking an organization on tour for their audience to interact with if they felt the need, much like the hardcore bands of old selling zines alongside their merchandise. Maybe collaborating with a foundation such as beyondblue, much in the same way Trouble With Templeton did with Soften the F*ck Up.
Yet, my faith was left hanging. I followed the band’s facebook, my newsfeed being inundated with updates to attend the tours, follow the members on instagram and make sure I’ve got my TAA trackpants to match my TAA crewneck (both non existent in my wardrobe).
I was recently sent the link to the official video to “Open Letter” only to awkwardly gawk for the four and half minutes. The arguably most provocative song of Chasing Ghosts has been given a party video. Wait, a house party video. Devoid of any recognizable narrative, a ‘hungover’ Amity perform to a small crowd of tattoo-covered skaters, drunken fire breathers and hired models, for good measure. Brands are sponsored (subtly), shoeys are had (poorly) and girls macked (for show). Did I miss the memo that Open Letter was an anthem for YOLO, not an inspiring ode to the magic and majesty that life can offer?
I can understand if the band doesn’t want to dwell on such heavy issues but by making a massive statement about something that affects the health of the majority of your fan-base, only to create something so shallow as this, is disrespectful and a missed opportunity to say something truly great.
“This is something to remember?” Hardly.