Take a look around you–whether you’re in your room, your family room, a dorm room–just look around. Now look harder. What would you notice was gone if you woke up the next morning and it just wasn’t there. Would you notice the pile of magazines in the corner (strategically placed to make you trip every time you need to open the window) was missing? Would you realize the lounger next to it was gone as well? How about the more obvious ones–the television, the desk, the computer you’re reading this review on? Connecticut-based emotional hardcore band Piss Poor woke me up from a stupor by reminding me of two things. One: That I hadn’t heard any new Like Beasts (the band’s former name) material in a while, and two: That even if it wasn’t emotion I had been missing from previous emotional hardcore bands, it was connection. Born Bitter is an EP which is not only an uncompromising emotional powerhouse, but a beautifully written and crafted piece of art which, with every strike of a cymbal and shout of a syllable, can be related to by the listener.
Born Bitter’s instrumentation is a leveling driving force not to be taken lightly. While “Bedridden” creeps into the audible range slowly, once it starts, it really starts and Piss Poor down take the time to really slow down after that. Even while the vocals aren’t there to guide and focus the instrumentation, the drums still pound along at a breakneck pace and the guitars and bass still scramble and scurry overhead, painting a passionate, intimate image with no time to color within any outline. The guitars often wander over each other, using feedback and dissonance to play and feed from one another. Riffs and melodies heard in “Youth & Steel”–especially the song’s climactic breakdown–show this brilliantly, using a stop-and-go song structure in which the guitars are just ever so slightly delayed from the drums to create a one-two punch which accompanies the vocals brilliantly. Even when both the guitars and drums drop their tempo and play in a slower, more ambient manner, the bass is still rumbling and crashing along, taking no heed of it’s surroundings and harnessing the listener’s attention–as seen in the introduction to “Three Steps.”
While the instrumentation is brilliantly executed to provide a perfect canvas for Piss Poor’s vocals, they are just that–a canvas. The source of Born Bitter’s most driving, sincere passion is held within the grasp of the lyrics and vocals. Whether it’s the bone-chilling honesty found in the introductory track, “Bedridden,” the incessant vocal battery on “I-84,” or the harrowing, goose-bump inducing depression found in the conclusion of “September’s Singing,” the vocals guide the listener through the ending, while the lyrics tell a story of love, loss, and trying to carry on. While glossing through the EP the first time, the conclusion to “September’s Singing” brought a rush of blood down my spine and goosebumps on my forearms. The lyrics are so tangible and passionate, it feels as if the vocalist is recounting experiences from the listener’s past. And all the while, when the vocalist rants, sings and shouts on and on, the instruments take no time to stop–they are slave to neither the listener’s feelings or the vocalist’s passion: Like time, and life, they just keep soaring.
It’s moments like the conclusion in “September’s Singing” and the climactic, ground-shaking breakdown in “I-84” which blur the line between lyricism and the listener’s history. The music creates such a detailed, vibrant background for the sheer honesty and uncompromising passion in the vocals to color on, that, by the time the EP is completed, the listener isn’t sure if they’re looking at a sketch of their past, or a photograph. I can only assume I’m not the only person with emotional baggage of some kind who will read this review, and, while other acts and albums have certainly acted upon those feelings, Born Bitter truly reaches deep within the listener and pulls those feelings to the surface of their murky past–just clear enough for the listener to see and just close enough to feel, but not too close that it’s real or overwhelming.
Born Bitter is a dynamic masterpiece which displays true mastery of the emotion in emotional hardcore. With raw, driving instrumentals which follow their own path, and vocals that are bold enough to allow that to happen, Piss Poor create such a detailed dynamic that at times, the lines between fact and fiction are blurred to create a fluid, mobile and beautiful depiction of what emotional hardcore should be.
For Fans Of: Pianos Become the Teeth, Like Beasts, Converge, La Dispute, Defeater