Monday, March 19, 2012

Album Review: No Trigger - Tycoon

Album Rating: A-
After falling off the map, No Trigger is back with their first full length release in six years. The group’s old catalogue consists of high octane ‘melodic hardcore,’ whatever that means. At the beginning of 2011, the band announced that they had signed to No Sleep Records, a surprising yet intriguing decision from both parties. No Sleep has little on their roster that resembles No Trigger. This left me wondering whether the second LP would be a great deviation from their original direction or whether the old guys still had their spunk. I was not disappointed.

Tycoon is certainly not a great departure from No Trigger’s roots, maintaining the core attitude and aggression of the outfit as well as vocalist Tom Rheualt’s signature cry. However, Tycoon is a bit more dynamic than its predecessor Canyoneer. Generally, tracks feature more noticeable variance in songwriting and structure. Opener “Maple Boy” features a sudden shift in tempo that is effective and organic, a nice change of pace that lets the listener know that they need to be on their toes. “New Brains” features an atmospheric clean introduction that sets No Trigger well ahead of their hardcore peers in musical talent. The track flows beautifully into rapid octaves and power chords shortly after the spacey lead fades, a refreshing experience.

The record has a bit more of a poppy mentality than expected of a band with harsh vocals and pounding drums. However, this is not to say that Tycoon is gimmicky or a sellout record. No Trigger has managed to naturally merge memorable hooks with their otherwise angry verses. They also have perfected writing a punk song in a major key while still keeping their edge. The lead lines have just enough gain to keep the hardcore vibe while still being catchy and easy to listen to. Tycoon may become a trend setting record in this regard, proving that the benefits of adding a pop element to a sound can be managed without the stereotypical drawbacks.

The production of Tycoon is artfully executed. The record sounds big and clear but not too clear; the bands punk roots are evident in the only slightly too gritty guitars and Rheualt’s only slightly produced vocal presence. The production’s shining moment is the ambient tone of the guitars in the introduction of “New Brains,” where the tone is both new ground for a punk band but sounds as though No Trigger has been working on such a style for years.

Rheualt’s lyricism is also mature compared to his peers. Instead of covering generic rebellious political punk themes that tend to bog down otherwise serious acts, Rheualt moves in a different direction, exploring more personal issues. On “Permanent,” Rheualt hauntingly cries, “I couldn’t finish what I started, it scared the shit out of me,” perhaps making a small effort to cater to the new label’s fan base. Regardless, the lyrics make for a more distinctly No Trigger experience.

Tycoon is ultimately a great success for No Trigger, proving that they’re still a heavyweight in their craft, perhaps expanding their fan base through some experimentation and a new label. Very little about the record sticks out, greatly to the benefit of the record, though slightly to its detriment. Though nothing about it really knocked me out of my seat, Tycoon is still a very strong effort across the board, hopefully garnering much deserved success for the Massachusetts natives.

Track List:

01. Maple Boy
02. Dried Piss
03. Windmill and Watertower
04. Checkmate
05. Department of the Interior
06. Mountaineer
07. Insider (Executive/Amputee)
08. New Brains
09. Permanent
10. Skyscrapers
11. Turn In My Throat

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