Fightstar – They Liked You Better When You Were Dead

They Liked You Better When You Were Dead

If you want to have a snapshot of post-hardcore as it stands in 2006, pick up Fightstar’s They Liked You Better When You Were Dead. If you like post-hardcore innovation, you’re not going to find much here. But if you want charging, thunderous riffs punctuated by tight vocal harmonies and twinkly guitar sections, this is your album. Fightstar pulls off the same old formula better than anyone else does.

For example, “Palahniuk’s Laughter” starts off with an extremely well-executed brutal, winding guitar riff before stopping dead and introducing a tender vocal melody accented with a tiny guitar line and a little high-hat tap. The pre-chorus builds, and the chorus bursts wide open with a half-sung, half-screamed melody and thunderous guitars. The winding guitar line comes back (man, that line is good), and then they go into another tension-building verse, followed by ripping chorus. The bridge seals the deal; the guitars and drums pound away in a staccato rhythm while a harmony continues throughout. It’s good, but I can’t help thinking that I’ve heard this a bunch of times. To be fair, they are the best in the genre; the harmonies are genuinely tight, the guitar lines are solid, the band is as cohesive as superglue, and the production is immaculate (too immaculate, if you ask me).

But except for standout tracks “Cross out the Stars” and “Mono,” these songs just don’t leave an impact. It’s obvious that these guys are good at what they do, but it just doesn’t have the sticking impact that MeWithoutYou or Navies or Broadcast Sea or even early Thursday possesses. Fightstar does not possess that critical, sometimes indescribable element that catapults bands from band of the week status to heavy-rotation status.

“Cross out the Stars” and “Mono” are the two exceptions to this rule. In both of these tracks, they take a much more ambient approach to songwriting, letting the songs unfold gradually, from humble beginnings upwards and downwards and all around. These songs feel much more honest and organic than the rest of the album. Even when the band ends up flailing away at the end of “Mono,” it sounds so much better having heard the entire song build up to that moment. It has an impact, it has kick. There is actual meaning behind the post-hardcore thrash of “Mono.”

So if you like what’s in the post-hardcore/emo/rock scene right now, then Fightstar is right up your alley. They Liked You Better When You Were Dead is at the top of the field. If you like to hear a little innovation, you should take heart in “Cross out the Stars” and “Mono” and hope that the band’s next release capitalizes on these successes.