“Here I am again, to story-tell again.”
A tale as old as time, an emo band releases an album, break up less than a year later, sad teens revel in the genius for a while, then they regroup another 25 years down the line. Formed in ’95 Broken Hearts Are Blue had a short lived career, only releasing a single album The Truth About Love in ’97 and disbanding later that year. This album has haunted on the annals of my iPod for many years now, so it’s very surprising to see they are back with their first full length album since the 90’s, Goodbye Bunny Smith, but do they still have the magic that made their debut so special?
Goodbye Bunny Smith opens with ‘Do You Wanna?’, arguably the most punk song the band have released to date. I really like the sound of the intro riff and melody, but they quickly discard it for a repetitive guitar and drum line with gang vocals. Whilst I admire this as an opener, it is bold and creates a statement about their new sound, overall it’s a track which lacks the delicacy the band normally deliver, which doesn’t entirely mesh with the rest of the project.
The next two songs bring back a more traditional sound, ’Self-Help Glow’ features a wonderful lone guitar line, playing chords nestled between twiddly riffs, backed by a steady drum and bass line, laying foundation for Ryan Gage’s romantic croon that fans know well,
“She took on loan my rare charms
Taking harbour in my empty arms“.
It is very impressive just how similar this song is sounding to their earlier work. ‘Laurel Canyon’ brings a, dare I say, cheery element to the album and one of the most memorable and catchy lines on the whole project,
“Before we shut down
All we do is shut down, oh no“
something that plays in the back of your mind for hours after listening. Then transferring to a wonderful bridge which executes the gang vocal effect they seem to be experimenting with very well, definitely the standout single of the record.
The title track follows, this 5 and a half minute acoustic song-poem exudes what is quintessentially Broken Hearts Are Blue. What I believe is the secret to their particular brand of a melancholic nostalgia: the inclusion of specific names and situations in songs which the listener has no chance of understanding fully, which serves to create a uniquely personal experience. Who is Bunny Smith? Why can’t the protagonist ever love her? Why did she leave? Much like the cries of “Vladmir” and “Natascha” on their debut, alongside the fixation on the “Blue” (“Blue Times” uses “Blue” 8 times, and that’s not including their reference to a “navy hue”), we get a very idiosyncratic view of the writer’s mind and life. Some albums succeed heavily by creating a rendition of love in its purest form, just look at American Football, whose debut boiled teenage love down to it’s most basic elements for all to relate to, Broken Hearts Are Blue however instead go in the other direction to create a more personalised experience, which makes the stories told that much more believable. If you hadn’t guessed by now, I adore The Truth About Loveand you need to listen to it immediately if nothing else.
The album seems to officially end with ‘International Velvet’ (the Spotify version appends 4 more songs from an EP released late 2018), a 7 minute long mini-epic. A simple piano progression backs delayed vocals, it is a hazy, reverb soaked song, resembling an almost-forgotten memory. 23 years have passed since their first album, all members will be in completely different phases of life now, and the nostalgia seeps out rightfully,
“That pleasant kid grew old
Like an ancient cave drawing“.
The piano slows to a soft ending, dripping away like the years gone by, a fantastic ending to this album which perfectly embodies everything that we have heard throughout Goodbye Bunny Smith.
Overall it is great to see an old band back on such great form, the chemistry is undeniable and I hope they can continue to bring more of their sound to the rebirth of emo. While some parts are slower than their previous projects, with more acoustic numbers, and less groove driven beats and riffs, they do not fail to execute their pristine style and personal lyricism well. Even if they do fail to reach the heights or their spectacular debut it is a welcome return and hopefully the sign of more fantastic music to come.