Sound: "Rick Wakeman eat your heart out, here we go!"
I bet you never thought you'd see the day that a Dead Kennedys quote set the agenda for an album from Canadian post-hardcore merchants Silverstein. That day, though, has come with "Short Songs", a blast of 22 songs in 19 minutes that probably would push the aging prog rocker well over the edge. The Dead Kennedys' ode to the short-form, from which the project got its name, is one of many songs covered on the second half of this mini-album, while the first half attempts to compress the band's own sound into similarly tight spaces. The results, it must be said, are mixed. The melodrama which made them famous doesn't naturally lend itself to being communicated in under 90 seconds, no matter how you spin it, so the tracks based around melodic vocal hooks are at best frustrated and at worst totally pacified by the restrictions of time.
Luckily, the band have some hardcore pedigree in their arsenal. "Sick Of Your Secrets" and "SOS" are potent examples of the sort of power that has kept this band just above water while many of their contemporaries from the mid-2000s have well and truly gone under. Their covers are well chosen also, from Green Day to Gorilla Biscuits to a particularly vicious cut from screamo trailblazers Orchid; the competence with which the guys perform such a variety of tunes perhaps demonstrates their versatility better than their own material does in this case. You'd really struggle to argue that their songwriting can stand up to that of some of the legends they're paying tribute to here, but they'd be the first admit that. // 6
Lyrics: Shane Told's voice is one of a slowly dying breed, one which once summed up Warped Tour punk in a nutshell but now sounds rather dated the nasal adolescent. His strength now lies in his scream, which acts as a much more useful tool in narrating these quick-fire bursts of emotion. However, one thing the band have realised about writing short songs is that there's little room for playing about with instrumentals, so Told still has plenty of ground to cover and sticks closely to the themes of heartbreak and personal tragedy that followers of Silverstein are well used to by now. // 6
Overall Impression: It's pleasing to see a band like this trying something different, even if it is in the name of fun and fan service more than artistic progression. Like a rarities collection, "Short Songs" offers fans some raw ideas that will never make it to full-lengths, but the downside of that is that it will be of little interest to newcomers. Some of the covers are certainly worth checking out, but this is for fans only. // 6
- Duncan Geddes (c) 2012