The current state of the world is troubling. I know, every age has its own version of gloom and doom, but seriously, things are seemingly out of control. There is a certain chaos bubbling over into the streets of politics and race. In these combustible times, art becomes of more value. These cultural analysts call us to something greater or simply give us a reprieve from the fragmented lives we lead. Whether it is Dylan, Nirvana, or the Temptations, art is a product of the time and space in which it exists.
Enter Brooklyn based rockers Highly Suspect (check out a recent interview here). Their unburdened and don’t give a fuck attitude is exactly what the state of the world needs right now. Whether it be a slow burning rumination or a aggressive punk flavored kick to the gut, these guys deliver a second album that explodes out of the current state of the world in the best of ways. These are the same guys who were nominated for two Grammys for their outstanding debut Mister Asylum album and we are relieved that if anything, it only added to their creative tension. Not settling for a mediocre sophomore album, they moved to Bogota, Columbia to escape the typical recording process. The Boy Who Died Wolf (Nov 18th) is far from a sequel to their hit debut, it is a sprint to new ground with their typical genre breaking and confident rock middle finger laced tracks. “I think we’re going to lose some people. I also think we’re going to gain more. It’s got a broader palette, and it’s more mature. I think it’s all around a better album, but I feel a lot of people are going to be expecting “Mister Asylum” again, and then when they don’t get it, they’ll be upset. But the people who can accept the change and enjoy us for who we are now, they’ll love it,” explains front man Johnny Stevens.
Not too long after the endless tour promoting their debut, the band released their “Serotonia” single. While probably the best track on the album, it wonderfully details the band’s identity. A slow burning track with nods to California elite, both past and present, it doesn’t hold back. The songwriting is surprisingly deep and relevant but also showcases the no holds barred lyrics; “I wish everyone I knew was dead, so I never had to pick up the phone.” If you like never knowing what to expect instrumentally or lyrically, then you will love this band and particularly this song. The guitar solo and looping bass alone will capture your affection.
While “Serotonia” and the outstanding Queens of the Stone Age style “Postres” leans more into the blues-rock the band does so well, “Little One” treads on a more grunge infused ground. Starting with Stevens’ broken vocals, it launches into a heartbreak tune that will resonate with many. This will be playing on rock stations for a while and is a good representation of where the band is creatively. “For Billy” follows this track and is the closest the band gets to their debut. A blistering upbeat jam, it is a nod to a close friend who passed away recently. “I promise I’ll see you on the other side, we’ll get stoned, we’ll get drunk” the band wails. And while lyrics like these don’t come across as too terribly deep in print, there is a certain magic the band captures within the sound they build. Highly Suspect are devoted to their friends and fans in a unique way that comes across here. M.C.I.D. is their rally cry that stands for “My Crew Is Dope”. It’s refreshing to see, even with heartbreak and success, they are still very much themselves.
Two tracks on different ends of the spectrum are their take on Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel” and the venomous “Viper Strike”. The former is a slow blues infused piece of rock perfection. Crunchy guitar and a steady beat bring out the natural melancholy flare to the track. The later, is exactly the track this mad world creates. Recently in a performance on Conan, the band made known their views on Donald Trump. “Viper Strike” is a continuation of this. It is a very punk and gloves off sort of song touching on every subject from the Catholic Church, to recent police shootings, and politics with spoken word and wails. It will be a hard tune to listen to for most people but it does capture the spirit of this age.
Highly Suspect is the act these times create. Explosive, creative, and destructive, in a way, we are all part of their crew, whether we admit it or not. The Boy Who Died Wolf is anything but reserved. Ambitious and sure, it will challenge your rock sensibilities with a sound that is unique and refreshing. We highly recommend you give it a listen with an open mind and a clenched fist.