Enter The Traditional - bassist/vocalist Anthony Musior, drummer Jon Coric, and guitarists Mike Bienias and Ryan Bennett. These men are not strangers to the Buffalo music scene. Band after band has hardened this particular group of musicians into a finely tuned machine, and this time, they mean business. Literally. I'm not saying that to be trite - The Traditional started with the intention of being professional musicians; this is their business.
Their debut offering You Can't Rebuild Forever is a highly personal seven-song album that is self-described as "authentic and heartfelt emo-infused indie rock." It's hard to come up with a more accurate description than that. This batch of songs falls somewhere between the emotional assault of a Brand New album and something a little more straightforward that you might hear on the Edge. I won't sell The Traditional short by comparing them to a vapid radio-rock band, but regardless of how they sound, The Traditional carry themselves like a straight up rock band. You might as well take any preconceptions you have about The Traditional and throw them out the window, because this album is so straightforward, it hurts. Once you hear You Can't Rebuild Forever you realize - image, sound, musicianship, lyrics - it's all laid flat out on the table, heart on Musior's sleeve.
The album opens with "Give Up Your Ghosts," which clocks in at just under three minutes. The Traditional were smart to open with this particular number - it's a perfect introduction to the rest of the EP. There's nothing subtle about this song, and that theme carries nicely throughout the rest of the album. It seems The Traditional has cut every single unnecessary nuance out of everything they do, so when Bienias or Bennett unleash a cool guitar riff (hint: 2:25), or when Musior is singing with every ounce of his being, you notice, and you appreciate it.
The next and best song on the album is "Growing Young and Aging Poorly." Musior's experience as a frontman has paid off. He has evolved into a great lyricist that has a knack for clever lines that pull no punches. He sings, "If the worst is over, when does the best start?" Around that point I started asking myself, "who hasn't been in Musior's shoes before?" That is the power of You Can't Rebuild Forever - nothing is veiled, nothing is mysterious or metaphorical; even when I tried not to, I found myself relating more and more to what Musior had to say. Interestingly enough, "Growing Young and Aging Poorly" is also the longest song on the album, clocking in at 4:22. Whether or not the extra minute gave these guys a little more time to elaborate, I don't know, but it paid off, and "Growing Young" feels like a full story.
In the radio static that follows "Growing Young and Aging Poorly," you can make out the words "You know... I know" as the dial skips through various stations. It might just be a coincidence, but in the next song, their first single "The Visionary," Musior sings "You know, I know, I told you so." This blew my mind. It was the perfect bridge between the two strongest songs on the album, and it makes it feel like everything here was "meant to be."
Unlike "Growing Young," every other song on You Can't Rebuild Forever (with the exception of the intro) is about 3:30 in length, and I can't help but feel like this is purposeful. Intentional or not, it's a strategy that definitely works for the band, case in point, "The Visionary." This song is another high point on the record, and as per usual, nothing here is overblown. In fact, one of the main riffs in the song is made up of just one chord. Of course, that chord is repeatedly and passionately slammed on and it goes to show, just because The Traditional isn't filling every ounce of their music with complexity, it doesn't mean they are playing anything uninspired. Somehow, this simplicity makes every other subtlety stand out, particularly the second verse. On top of a slow, two-guitar harmony, Musior sings "I don't want to but I have to, I don't need you but I have you," and again, I can't help but find myself relating to Musior's sense of obligation.
I mentioned before that The Traditional carry themselves like a hard rock band, but halfway through the album, none of their songs had quite matched that image. Don't get me wrong - I think The Traditional's best work shows through when the band sticks to writing the emo-infused indie rock they've been able to hone (maybe it was the bad-ass mustaches that threw me off), but the next three songs, "I'm Losing My Mind," "The Lust, The Eyes, The Flesh," and "The Composure, The Compromise" are the closest The Traditional comes to the harder vibe I was initially expecting. "I'm Losing My Mind" starts with a drum assault from Coric, and in another life, it probably could have been a punk song. Before even a minute passes, The Traditional is somehow able to swing the song back into something a little more "traditional" (for lack of a better word), and it works better than I could have ever expected. As for the swagger of "The Lust, The Eyes, The Flesh," this is where the band comes the closest to the hard rock aura the band seems to emit. Of any song on the album, "Lust" is the biggest departure away from their distinctive sound - the track is swung, and it's very angry. The song is placed well on the album and ultimately comes off as a refreshing break from the other material, but Musior and co. made a smart (and probably conscientious) decision by not branching out from their established sound any more often than they needed to.
The album closes with "Diagnosis:" which is where we find The Traditional at their gentlest. Like "The Lust, The Eyes, The Flesh," this is another departure from their tried-and-true methods. The song begins acoustically and is eventually accompanied by slide guitar and a Fender Rhodes piano, both of which are very nice additions. But the band is at their best when they explode out of the acoustics and back into full-band mode - in fact, this particular explosion is one of my favorite parts of You Can't Rebuild Forever. Who could complain about a strong finish?
You Can't Rebuild Forever is exactly what you'd expect from this hardened group of Buffalonians. Nothing on this album pushes the limits of the genre, but it doesn't have to - You Can't Rebuild Forever is honest, straightforward, and inherently enjoyable. Sad, angry, or impassioned - I related to almost everything Musior had to say. All in all, nothing here is ever overdone or bigger than it has to be, and that's exactly what The Traditional wanted (and what their future fans will come to enjoy, I'm sure). The album will be officially available on Wednesday, October 31st, and they plan on touring in support of it throughout the winter.