Various Artists – Break Even Presents … A House Divided

Various Artists
Break Even Presents … A House Divided

Break Even Records proposes to be a label that is only out to do just what it says: break even. A non-profit organization, their CDs sell for what seems ridiculously cheap. That’s certainly an ideology I can get behind, especially when they’re attracting a very diverse yet talented group of artists. As far as I know, of the bands on this release, only The Cotton Weary have an album on Break Even, but each act is equally good here, and the name power alone should be enough to help this release do more than break even.
So, in short, five bands doing two songs each, all previously unreleased (as far as I know) makes this an album you must have.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know Pop Unknown was still together. Their music has definitely evolved from simply an “ex-members of” emo band into a very strong pop-rock band. The vocal approach on “That Was Then…” is almost sweet at times, as multiple vocalists sing, “is there something you’re not telling me, or is it me not telling you?” The more crunchy guitars of “…This is Now” show the band’s more rocking side, and the melodic guitar lines interspersed throughout just take a bit of the edge off.
The Cotton Weary play very slickly produced rock. With acoustic guitars and a very warm feeling, “Sizing Up the Situation” perhaps sets the lightest tone on this album. It never gets too quick but has a more melodic, mid-tempo pace. “Post Script” kicks the rock back in, though, mixing electric and acoustic guitars and propelling the song to a more up-beat tempo.
Oddly enough, Slackjaw’s first song here, “Darkest Hour,” is the title of their new album, which doesn’t contain the song. Quite clearly an outtake from their excellent new album, it’s a dark, moody track of intense post-emo rock. And it contrasts surprisingly with “Recliner,” which is Slackjaw gone to their punk-rock roots. It shows a nice, powerful intensity and reminds me a bit of early Mineral, although it lacks the studio polish of the band’s recent efforts.
I had been hearing much about The December Drive lately, and their two songs blow me away. “Set and Forgotten” starts off mellow and virtually explodes with discordant bursts of guitar and shouted vocals that contrast with more melodic, moody moments throughout. “The Will of Good Men” is much more melodic, but still punk-rock in pace and tempo, it does feature some shouted, intense vocals before settling back into more melodic mode.
A Dim Halo finish off with two instrumental pieces that sound like Tristeza’s pretty new-age rock combined with Mogwai’s intricate time changes and flowing rock. Both songs are very chimey and flowing, similar in approach and a nice, calm relaxation from the intensity of the other bands.
So, I hear some new songs from bands I like, including two from Slackjaw I likely never would have heard, and I get exposed to some new bands I like quite a bit. This is an excellent release.