It is and forever will be the defining moment for those few, elite bands who excel in their freshman campaigns. And though reference to the "sophomore slump" is a cliché' that is all-too-familiar in rock n' roll circles, it is a term that nonetheless accurately describes the pivotal nature of the sonic sequel.
Because the second album will write a band's destiny, forever, in stone.
Most will crumble under the pressure, and prove that only a select few become memorable, only the special will do something that will etch themselves forever into the hearts of many...and The Classic Crime would not have it any other way.
Enter The Silver Cord, what many are calling one of the most complete rock albums released in recent history. If you are at all familiar with 2006's Albatross, you know that The Classic Crime has no trouble writing rock anthems with chorus lines that would make even the most critical ear scream, chant, and sing in sheer obedience to the sound. In fact, Albatross was, according to the band, a collection of singles written for rock radio. While most offer a couple catchy melodies, The CC gave us an entire album's worth on their first go-round. So how could they possibly push their lofty mark to a higher apex? By delivering depth, diversity, and dynamics along with accessibility.
"This is the most thematic thing we have ever done," comments vocalist Matt MacDonald. "The Silver Cord is a metaphor from literary history dating back to the Torah and the Old Testament. There are also numerous stories of people who have had out of body experiences on hospital beds who have seen The Silver Cord. After being proclaimed dead and then coming back to life, many have made reference to a small tinsel-like silver thread which connects their mortal bodies to their immortal souls. The idea is that when the cord is severed, you pass on. It's impossible to think about this cord without realizing how fragile life truly is. Every song on this album follows that theme in some way. And while there are songs on the new record that could have easily been on Albatross, we wanted more of a contrast from song to song. This is the three-dimensional version of ourselves...an album that you can dig into and listen to again and again."
Doubters will be silenced in seconds. A dramatic swell of tragic emotion echoes from MacDonald's soul, introducing the ride that is to come on the opener, "The End." The track begins with just vocals and guitar, and words cannot express the desperation that seeps from the opening lines. As the second track kicks in, an evolution into inviting melody and dissonant energy leaves you feeling filled with life yet unsettled at the same time. And herein lies the overwhelming strength of the LP itself: it is the Classic Crime at their most balanced, yet most disconnected. There are very heavy moments, where screamed vocals meets shrieking riffage, along with equally great moments of pop clarity. And though song structures are primarily straightforward, the band shows obvious growth in musicianship and instrumentation. The ebb and flow musically is matched by equal dynamic in emotion; whereas Albatross was an uplifting experience on the whole, their sophomore effort contains more balanced emotion. There is both dark and light here. This is, most definitely, a step forward for the band in every single way.
"Overall the record is more mortal...Albatross was more hopeful and optimistic, while The Silver Cord is more realistic about the realities of life and death. I think that just happened because it was a product of the fact that we have lived through two years of doing this and we have faced reality...the struggles, the difficulties on the road, the harsh time we face in music today. When you are forced to face these things you are stretched in every way."
Once again the band employed the services of Producer Michael "Elvis" Baskette (Incubus, Story of the Year, Chevelle) on this endeavor, and once again he has succeeded in delivering a sound that is raw, enigmatic, yet contemporary in its punch. It is to be noted that the band took extra pains to "record as they would have fifteen years ago," according to the members of The CC themselves. This is a record without the vocal tuning, quantizing, or sampling of today's rock records. It is completely performed by the band as they would play it live, many times in single takes during the recording process. This is an album by a group of individuals who each carries their own weight in terms of input, performance, and ability. Plainly put, The Classic Crime have delivered an album by a band, not a computer-generated product by a fashion club.
MacDonald's words will cut straight to the heart, piercing bone and marrow, with clever candor and poignant commentary. "Abracadavers," a song inspired by the "Bodies Exhibit" which travels the world showing what physically lies beneath each of our skin, confronts the mortality that each of us face: We're all the same, made of hair and bones and water and blood cells. And we're all to blame, for spending way too much time on ourselves. "God and Drugs," a self-revealing take on the emptiness of addictive substance, speaks of how such potions so poorly emulate true happiness: It's a constant reminder of what I can and cannot have. The smell the taste its all just fake the truth is what I lack. So I will keep on running and keep my head above the ground, and I will look for you in places you cannot be found. And on the album's opener, "Just a Man," The CC confronts the pride that each of us possesses, reminding us that there are no ultimate answers in humankind alone: I know that my faults bring me down, it's a constant battle. That's why I have to be honest with you now. I'm not your saint, I'm not your savior.
Though subtly spiritual in theme and approach, the band has a very healthy view on the interplay of belief and artistry, and one which MacDonald has no trouble articulating: "Bob Dylan is a Jew who came to believe that Jesus Christ was the messiah...and since then he has fought the label of 'Christian artist' whole heartedly. He's been quoted saying, 'People want to label you so they can limit your accessibility.' That's why we refuse to have labels of any sort...either with genre or religion, because we want to be accessible to everybody. We feel like we can do more good to more people by remaining objective in our perception."
After scanning over 40,000 copies of their debut and honing their live show to machinelike precision, The CC are poised to make another run across the nation and beyond, setting their sights on hundreds and hundreds of shows in the months to come. They have joined forces with everyone from Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Mest, MxPx, Emery, and Anberlin. They were featured on Warped tour 2006 and will be joining 2008's installment as well. While some struggle to capture the magic of their recordings live, suffice it to say that this band is only at their most potent and accurate in the show atmosphere. This is a legitimate unit that will prove their mettle in the chapter that is to come.
Yet with all their dedication to music for music's sake, The Classic Crime are surprisingly dedicated to a greater, practical purpose as the end-all-be-all of their band's existence. It is with these higher goals in mind that they push onward into this next era.
"We want to reach as many people as possible and we want to help people," states MacDonald. "I think music is powerful and people can find emotional therapy in it. We want to make music that is meaningful, that people can relate to. Also, we hope to generate enough of a career so we can go to third world countries and try to serve people in need on physical level. I think we are put on this earth to serve something other than just ourselves."