Since the release of their debut album, Albatross, in 2006, The Classic Crime has found a place in the hearts of many alternative rock fans with their passionate blend of angst-soaked musicianship and heart on your sleeve lyricism. With each succeeding record, the band has managed to develop and mature their sound. After a five year wait and an excellent set of revisited material, the band is finally ready to unveil their fifth record, How To Be Human. With a successful Kickstarter behind them and a new home on Bad Christian, does How To Be Human sit among the band's best?
The album opens with a softly strummed intro before diving into the excellent rock number "Holy Water." Featuring infectious verses, an explosive chorus, and soaring production, the song is a curious look at how God sees His creation. "There is no God d**mned thing in sight, it's all deemed good in His eyes." The song does enter some shaky theological territory when it suggests that you are alone during the pre-chorus, in addition to an evolutionary view of humanity. The record itself is a concept album of sorts, displaying an overarching theme of doubt and searching that's painfully honest and transparent. Considering the questioning theme of the album tracks such as "Holy Water" can be seen as either a firm conclusion or the door to a conversation that hasn't been settled yet. Because of this open ended approach it wouldn't be too far out of line to suggest that this is some of the best lyricism we've seen from the band to date.
"Not Done With You Yet" is another strong track about evaluating one's depravity and failures. It's a flowing tune that is both beautifully composed and emotionally potent, despite the chorus being a little too repetitive. The song may also paint a clearer picture of how to see the more controversial moments on the record with the lyrics, "I created new patterns of the thought / Got a new perspective / I was just once immigrant son of a silenced preacher's wife / But black and white both died....But I'm not done with you yet." It suggests that maybe the searching isn't finished yet and there are more things to learn. The record as a whole feels quite unfinished lyrically, so it's a plausible viewpoint.
Another notable track is "Wonder." It's a transparent look at the singer's struggles with faith and doubt. As one who has personally experienced a similar fear, the song is very relatable. The line "Have I f***ed up my head with all the books that I read?" is rightly controversial, although where it's coming from is understandable. The main problem I see with this usage, however, is that it feels less like an honest bleed of emotion and more like an obligation. With so many artists utilizing harsh language in such a short amount of time (and being connected to the same label, no less) it's difficult to see how outside influence was absent from this decision. A different word choice would have made a bigger impact on the listener considering the similar decisions of other artists. It just causes unnecessary controversy.
After "Wonder," the album takes a nosedive into four heavier but uninteresting songs. "Shades of Green," "More" and "The Third Way" in particular are almost a chore to sit through. They're fine songs on their own, but in the context of the album, they lack any defining trait or unique spark. The album picks itself up with the acoustic track "Hold On" and the closer "Black and White." As already noted, these songs end the record on an uncertain note. As the final track fades out the listener is met with conflicting cries of desperation (Savior save me), and doubt (Am I Alone?). They're both satisfactory closers musically.
Aside from the possibility of controversy, the album's biggest flaw is its musical approach. It's far too safe. Tracks such as "Ghost," "Driftwood" and the aforementioned lull in the album's final half are, to put it plainly, generic and predictable. It's such a shame to see, considering the immense talent this band possesses, but How To Be Human is a paint by the numbers effort with little that truly sets it apart.
Overall, The Classic Crime's latest release is a good album by a band that can do far better. Its lyrical themes are worth checking out and some choice songs ("Holy Ghost" and "Wonder") are excellent, just don't expect an album that rivals the best of the band's past.- Review date: 4/24/17, written by Lucas Munachen of Jesusfreakhideout.com
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