By Jordan Walsh
The overtly ‘90s angle can be a tightrope walk in alternative music. For many bands trying to pick up the threads of Nirvana or Pearl Jam, the danger of coming off as derivative, or just plain boring, can be too much of a risk. Bands like Title Fight or Turnover have attempted to fight this by turning their ‘90s affinities away from the grunge world and toward other genres like shoegaze or dream pop.
UK act Basement chose to stay in the louder, more direct region of ‘90s rock with their new record Promise Everything, staying the course after their 2012 record Colourmeinkindess. The latter record was one of the best to come out of the recent resurgence of ‘90s alternative influence in the emo scene, drawing inspiration from spacier bands like Hum to make big and bold emotional statements. Promise Everything succeeds in following the same lines while keeping things fresh and enjoyable through the sheer magnitude of its hooks.
While nothing on Promise Everything reaches the heights of Colourmeinkindess’s opening trio (“Whole,” “Covet,” and “Spoiled”), it is consistently solid and tightly crafted. The record keeps it short and sweet, clocking in at just 28 minutes. This brevity is to Basement’s advantage, with like-minded bands drowning in overlong grunge slogging, making for records that never seem to end. Promise Everything is notable for its ability to never overstay its welcome.
Of course, it helps when the songs are this good. A much welcomed Jimmy Eat World influence brings a towering quality to some of these choruses, with “Aquasun” bringing in one of the most addictive hooks of Basement’s career. While the production fits the slightly muddy, dry tendencies of the band’s influences, it’s difficult not to wonder how gigantic these songs could have sounded with the gloss of Futures. However, the rip-roaring nature of the title track flaunts the advantage of the rawer production style, with the song’s final cathartic moments thriving on the power of singer Andrew Fisher’s yell.
The most interesting portions of Promise Everything actually bring to light the main problem with the record as a whole. The band hits on something more original with songs like “Oversized” and “Halo,” two slowed down, more mood-based tracks. Here we have Basement touching upon more nuanced ground– with “Halo” featuring a rare, affecting falsetto from Fisher. While Promise Everything is a very cohesive record, it serves most to shed light on the different places Basement could go from here. Will they dive into the pop-rock tendencies of “Aquasun” or charge ahead into the more aggressive territories of “Lose Your Grip” or “Promise Everything?” Or will they embrace a more patient, calculated calm of “Oversized?”
More than anything else, Promise Everything feels like a fork in the road for Basement. While it is very enjoyable all the way through, it would be disappointing to see this promising band stay stagnant. Treading the footpaths of a scene from 30 years ago is one thing, but this band has more going for it than that. But, until the next LP comes around to answer the important question of Basement’s future, Promise Everything is solid enough to hold us over.
Jordan Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.