Artist: Frank Iero and The Future Violents
Reviewer: Andrew Treadwell
For Frank Iero, making music has always been a coping mechanism. But it’s also much more than just a way of dealing with the hardships of life – it’s a means of stepping back to take in the hurricane that is life, both in all its glory and devastation and acknowledging the things you could, and maybe should, have done differently.
The album “Barriers” is the first batch of songs he wrote after a near-death accident in Sydney in October 2016. Although everyone escaped with their lives, it was a serious crash – and one which, more than two years later, understandably still shapes both Iero’s life and the music that he makes – although perhaps not in the way you might think.
“People like to say ‘I live my life without any regrets,’ and I think that’s bullshit,” he says. “I think that if you don’t have any regrets then maybe you didn’t really live. Life is about mistakes and life is about scars and those are the things that help us remember that we’re alive. You shouldn’t get everything right – you should know what it feels like to feel sorry.”
Regret flows through Barriers, Iero’s third solo record, more than anything he’s ever made before. Made with his new band, The Future Violents, and recorded and mixed by Steve Albini, it’s an album that directly and deliberately challenges the doubts that plague us, whether on a trivial, everyday basis or a more meaningful level. To that extent, its fourteen songs are much more than a deeply existential journey into his heart and mind. They also reinvent who he is as a musician and tackle head-on the fundamental question of what it means to actually be alive, to be human.
From the opener “A New Day’s Coming”, which really seems like some form of gospel coming together with a rich layer of vocals, to the emotionally turbulent rear view mirror vibe of “Young and Doomed” with maybe a bit of jab his previous band, emotions are never far from the tip of Iero’s tongue.
“Fever Dream” has some grunge and punk elements, with its quiet verses interspersing with the gritty and angry chorus where as “The Host” power pop elements, and “Moto Pop” elevates as the whole band comes through the speakers like a freight train, the electricity of this record is undeniable.
“Basement Eyes” brings the pace down a bit. I wouldn’t call it a ballad per se, but the raw emotion once again comes to the front as it does with all of this album, switching into a song like “The Unfortunate” which is the shortest song on the album but also says a lot in that time
“Ode To Destruction” starts off with some quiet reflecting vocals, then in comes the ‘destruction’. Raw power and pain carry the song to different and mildly dangerous places, but then you mix that with a song like “No Love” which could be straight off a late 70’s early 80’s Blondie album, and you have “Medicine Square Garden” which is one of my personal favourites, I really love the clean guitar and vocals, with some fantastic harmonies in the choruses. This is how “Barriers” shares the complexities of life through so many styles, to convey all the different emotions through the colours of song.
“Police Police” is the most dynamic song on the record. From the brief feeding back intro to the low kept almost muffled vocals drive us to the building and screaming choruses only to drop back to the verse seamlessly. Not many artists can do that, and do it well.
“Great Party” has to be the most tongue in cheek sarcastic title as the song describes anything but a great party, thought the chorus does provide a great singalong and some massive riffs in the breaks push the song
Then we hit “Six Feet Downunder” takes the listener on a trip back to 2016 where Frank, his bandmates and some of the touring party, including a great friend of mine (Luv Ya J!), literally stared death in the face. Thankfully no one was lost that day but the pain they all still feel hasn’t gone away and this song tells that story. Its blunt, confronting and beautiful all rolled into one. I remember that day very well, the uncertainty, the fright, not knowing what has happened to a friend, and that was just a spectator, to imagine what is was like to be there drips from this song. Then into the epic “24K Lush” which rounds out the emotional roller coaster of this album. Its 6 minutes for the listener to gather their thoughts, and feelings and let them float away with the band.
The album is one of survival, one of pain, but most of all one of hope. It’s not an album you can cherry pick a few songs, you need to listen to the whole thing, you should listen to the whole thing. Immerse yourself and walk a mile in someone else’s shoes through the power of music, and you might feel something you have never allowed yourself to feel before.