The Boy Who Died Wolf review by Highly Suspect

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  • Released: Nov 18, 2016
  • Sound: 7
  • Lyrics: 7
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 7.3 Good
  • Users' score: 7.5 (13 votes)
Highly Suspect: The Boy Who Died Wolf

Sound — 7

Highly Suspect's follow up to their breakthrough album "Mister Asylum" has arrived within 18 months, attesting to the band's enthusiasm and desire to satisfy their fans... somewhat assisted by the fact that their hit "Lydia" first appeared on an EP back in 2013. Rather than being defined by a consistent sound, the album's sound and production is intentionally diverse in a similar way to Pearl Jam's "Vs." and "Vitalogy," which also came on the back of an unexpectedly successful debut*.

"My Name Is Human" immediately casts aside the bluesy jams of Mister Asylum's closer "Claudeland" with a simple bass and drum groove which sounds sparse and massive at the same time. While the hip-hop like spoken word verses throw a curve ball at existing fans, there's no denying the stadium rock vibes in the uplifting chorus that follows. Latest single "Little One," is instantly catchy with a strong Pixies vibe and another sing-a-long chorus.

The band have taken it down a notch in places, treading new ground with the ballads "Send Me an Angel" and "Chicago." "Serotonia" takes an ample, unashamed dose of inspiration from Pink Floyd. The band even included in the official lyrics they've posted. Potential lawsuits aside, it's one of the strongest tracks on the album and shines in the live setting.

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Although the album expands on the dirty rock sound of "Mister Asylum," shades of the predecessor remain, "Look Alive, Stay Alive" and "Viper Strike" are straight up rock tunes with shrieking double stops. Although a little toned down "For Billy," reminds me of the feeling that made me pick up a guitar and get tabs on UG 15 years ago - its just a good, heartfelt rock tune. "Postres" could easily have appeared on a QOTSA album, just listen to that vocal melody and the droning piano, which depending on your tastes will either make your smile or cringe. Maybe its too apparent a nod to one of the band's influences, but catchy nonetheless.

"F.W.Y.T." (the band's new acronym after #MCID?), may offer an insight to where the next album is headed with a hip-hop groove, atmospheric vocals and tribal percussion. Or it may simply be the result of smoking a lot of weed while recording in Columbia? Time will tell.

"Wolf" is a journey in itself. Equal parts charming and haunting, with shades of Radiohead and a ripping solo which - if you've ever seen the band live, makes it feel like they're right in front of you. Clocking in at close to seven minutes, its destined to be a gig-closing encore for years to come - and judging by the band's YouTube and Facebook responses is already an absolute fan favourite.

*The band actually released a little known self recorded, self-released, self titled reggae-rock album in 2011. Check it out on YouTube.

Lyrics — 7
"In a word, how would you describe your band's music? Honest." Johnny has stuck true to form on this album, again wearing his heart - and this time, some political views on his sleeve.

The lyrics capture the tumultuous 18 months the band have undoubtedly experienced, going from absolute unknowns to topping rock charts, playing Wembley and the Grammy's. This is pretty obviously stated in "Postres" with its refrain of 'Life is incredible'.

"My Name Is Human" announces the band's departure from the sound of "Mister Asylum," a coming of age tale while "Serotonia" transports you from the streets of Brooklyn to the beaches of California. Anthony Kiedis would be proud. "For Billy," piano ballad "Chicago" and "Send Me an Angel" are the resident tearjerkers, although the simplicity of the latter slips into cliché territory. Not just musically, but lyrically "Wolf" is arguably the album's strongest. In his trademark openness, Johnny explains the song's meaning in the YouTube by-line, which saves me trying to.

Given it was leaked in advance by the band on election night, "Viper Strike" will inevitably be viewed as an anti-Trump anthem. Needless to say the song will divide listeners, depending on their political allegiance (or lack thereof). Here the spoken word delivery reappears, but the short length of the verses limit the extent to which any clear commentary can be delivered, as done by the likes of Zack de la Rocha. The crass humour of "I almost wanna blow your mind and just go suck a dick" and "a lot of those motherfuckers are gay... in a hide your kids kind of way" is mildly entertaining, but is unlikely to be remembered as a protest song in years to come.

Lyrics aside, the vocal performance is probably the album's strongest point. There are some big choruses and the band have been quite ambitious with the harmonies and layering. Fortunately, bassist Rich is a strong singer too, so the songs don't suffer in a live setting.

Overall Impression — 8
Given the different directions pursued, "The Boy Who Died Wolf" is almost as likely to appeal or alienate, depending on the particular tune that's being played. While the depth of songwriting doesn't feel as consistent across the album as "Mister Asylum," the band have still delivered a handful of tracks which will be mainstays of their live sets for years to come in "My Name Is Human," "Little One," "Serotonia" and "Wolf."

Musically, the playing is understated throughout aside from the notable guitar solos on "Serotonia" and "Wolf" and may fail to pique the interest of guitar aficionados. However, in a rock scene that is increasingly poor on stadium fillers under the age of 40, the band's ability to inject pop sensibilities into their moody rock tunes is refreshing and makes this a wholly worthwhile listen.

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4 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Was really looking forward to this album after how incredible Mister Asylum was, and even more so after hearing Serotonia months out from the release, but I've gotta say I'm pretty disapointed after the first few listens. Gone are the bluesy influences that made it's predecessor so unique, for a much more generic sound overall with a few almost half assed curve balls thrown in. Hopefully after a few more listens there'll be more that will pop out that I didn't quite notice or appreciate at first, but it sounds very much like a band putting out a new release much too soon after finally finding some success with what's effectively the best of several years worth of material. Also, does the reviewer even realise Send Me an Angel is a cover? Albeit a very strange choice of a song to slap a cover of half way through the album.
    I do now. You don't get any liner notes when you buy the album digitally unfortunately. You're spot on though, bit of a random choice.