Lock and Key – Pull Up the Floorboards

Lock and Key
Pull Up the Floorboards

Pull Up the Floorboards is the kind of album that, in the late-90s, would have been my most treasured possession. But that’s not to say it’s dated; I just don’t listen to the style that often anymore. It takes a band like this to remind me why I loved it so much in the first place.

Lock and Key has a definite Hot Water Music vibe, even down to singer Ryan Shanahan’s hoarse voice that, when singing, is gruff and when screaming impassioned. The instrumentation is loud and intense, taking a page from the band’s heroes like Hot Water Music and Fugazi, incorporating emo and post-hardcore into a vicious blend of pounding rhythms, driving yet reasonably melodic guitars, and vicious intensity. It’s the way emo used to sound before it became a dreaded four-letter word: pure urgency and powerful guitars and rhythm.

Really, this band flirts with the “post-” in post-hardcore. Songs like “Process of Molting” have plenty of Planes Mistaken for Stars-style hardcore to them, aggressive and in-your face. “Volatile” is, as the name suggests, volatile, with perhaps the most crunchy guitars on the album, and “Albatross” manages to remain catchy while being heavy. “Winston Churchill” is all power and aggression, ripping off guitar riffs and shouted vocals.

Still, there’s a sense of melody that underlies even the most aggressive songs. See the guitar lines and hints of sung vocals on “Alchemy” that compliment that shouts. “Ammonia” is all-out power-rock, with shout/sung words and aggressive guitars, but it has its more subtle melodic breakdown and group-sung parts that are highly effective. On “Cover the Tracks,” the band has a less powerful feel, which gives the song a kind of more Thursday-esque emo feel. Saving the best for last, the guitars especially shine on the closer “Opening,” both tight and melodic and driving at once.

Pull Up the Floorboards is the first full-length from Lock and Key, and it’s a great release, well produced and well played. If it sounds like it could have been on Deep Elm’s late-90s Emo Diaries releases, well, that can be forgiven when it’s done so well. It definitely reminds me of a style that’s never really died out.