Life in Silhouette: Misconstruity Announces New Album [Review]
Big news on the indie rock scene: Buffalo-based post-hardcore band Misconstruity is reuniting to release a new album, che vuoi?, after a ten-year hiatus. Known for their emotive and lyrical songs, sweeping melodies and chord progressions, and uncompromising sound, Misconstruity’s new record, which is in the final production stages, is a journey through the raw emotions of human experience shimmering with poetry.
Misconstruity is singer and guitarist Russ Sbriglia, drummer John Sbriglia, guitarist Rob Goc, and bassist Bill Fulton. Their previous albums, All That You Thought You Were (2002) and American Dream (2003) led them into the local and then the national spotlight as they played alongside bands like Brand New, Coheed and Cambria, Elliott, the Weakerthans, Denali, and The Germs. But in 2004, with Russ’s decision to go to graduate school and the scattering of band members as far as the West Coast, things were put on hold. Now, Misconstruity has launched an Indiegogo campaign to help fund the post-production of the album. I’ve heard the near-finished version, and believe me when I say it’s absolutely worth your donation and, later on, your undivided attention.
Misconstruity has its own undeniable, unique power, and it links up to an impressive lineage of influences that include Death Cab for Cutie, Sunny Day Real Estate, and a wide variety of post-punk, post-hardcore bands (and the aforementioned Coheed and Cambria, which I definitely hear a touch of). Although the entire album is solid, the standout songs for me are the ones that are a little less emotionally accessible — that are a bit mysterious. While there’s beauty in the pieces that wear their heart on their sleeves, so to speak, I get a great deal of satisfaction from puzzling over some of Sbriglia’s more poetic, complex, and abstract lyrics. What the album really surprised me with more than anything else (and there are lots of great surprises here) was the depth of talent that Sbriglia has for creating true poetry. There’s some really beautiful songwriting here — both lyrical and instrumental. The other musicians are also never less than perfect.
The album starts by introducing us right away to the melodic complexities of the band. Sbriglia is virtuosic on the guitar, stringing notes and chords together into organic strands of sound that invite accompaniment from other instruments, played by performers who are equally as talented. It’s rare for a musician to be able to pull as much emotion from a single instrument as Sbriglia pulls from his guitar. Too often, emotional connection through song is eschewed in favor of technical intricacy or obliterating bass. Misconstruity’s music keeps the experience of deep emotion front and center, imparting a heartfulness that ranges from joyful to profoundly melancholic. The first track, “30/13,” is a testament to this — it takes the listener on a journey of heartbreak that we piece together through the lyrics. Sbriglia’s voice comes in first through distortion, as if we’re listening through a filter, but as the lyrics become more vulnerable, his voice — and the music overall — rings out clearer and finally invites us fully into shared experience. Sbriglia is a phenomenal guitarist, and also a deeply moving lyricist. He sings:
“The banquets of nothing on which I feast/ after familiar patterns once again repeat,/ the clothes I love no longer fit,/ now that I’ve shed my superfluous skin.”
We are pulled into the loneliness of his narrator through a poetic voice that speaks straight from the heart.
The title (and theme) of the next song, “Let’s Rock!”, references Twin Peaks. It also captures one of my favorite qualities of the album. There’s a heaviness to much of the subject matter, and even to the music itself, which can indeed rock out, but there’s also a playfulness that allows your total absorption into the world Misconstruity is creating. It’s a beautiful song that is simultaneously ominous and tinged with the possibility of an experience beyond the realm of the sensible. Whether this realm is accessed through diving into the heart or through something altogether stranger, like the world of Twin Peaks, remains at the heart of the listening experience:
“It was fire, she screamed, now the page is missing, Won’t you hold this for me? . . . Still they’re waiting for a face, No escaping from this place. . . Please don’t you tell me that the angels are dead.”
“Night of the World” starts out dark, in a way that befits the title. Minor guitar chords play over drums, evoking a scene from a vampiric midnight. It maintains an air of the mysterious and the gothic throughout, providing the soundtrack for dark revelries. At moments it edges into the territory occupied by the hypnagogic heavy metal of bands like Dream Theater and KYLESA.
“Sublimation Strange” takes us back firmly into post-hardcore territory again. “Melancholy eternity, no reciprocation. . . / De-sublimate before it’s too late,” sings Sbriglia, pulling us back into the emotional maelstrom of love and loss. “Life in Silhouette” has a similar feel, but I love the motif of this song—the draining of color from the world after an experience of unrequited affection. “I’m living a life in silhouette/ I’ve waved goodbye to every color I once knew/ except for black and grays that sometimes seem like blue/ Every color flew away with you.” If it sounds a bit dramatic, that’s because it is — deliciously so. Sbriglia creates a whole world out of the experience of solitude.
“Parade” opens on what at first seems to be a more hopeful note. Expansive chords meet lilting harmonies and jangly percussion to set the scene for what ends up being a heavy-hitting critique of Wall St. capitalism in the era of post-recession pessimism. “Every closing bell helps sounds the knell of another day enchained./ With every rise and fall we’re further enthralled/ a fiery pall of shadows fills our cave./ It’s time we joined and rained on their parade.” Despite the heavy subject matter, it is in fact an uplifting song, a call to arms and a refusal to bow to the giants of the corporate world—or even to the fictions of history as they are made and unmade each day. The song breaks into a heavier interlude towards the end, in recognition, perhaps, of the very serious state of things in this moment in our lives, before it soars back into the chorus, which echoes, anthem-like, until the last guitar note.
“Anamorphosis” opens with more of the dark, complex sound that makes me oh-so-happy, and the rest of the song doesn’t disappoint, moving quickly into heavy riffs grounded in hard rock with a deeply melodic edge
“To cast a glance awry/ is but to paint desire/ upon a canvas blank/ like winged architect. . . / Don’t you know that it’s the skull from which we crawl? Can’t you see that you’re the stain completing me? I am an anamorphosis.”
Sbriglia here refers to the famous painting The Ambassadors, by Hans Holbein, in which an image that seems fairly nondescript, of a meeting between two ambassadors, actually contains a large skull only visible when you walk around the painting. This song is another standout for me because of the richness Sbriglia imparts through the lyrics, which melds with the richness of the music itself.
“Unrequited” returns to the open expression of heartache, but with a poetic edge: “When alabaster teeth grind you to dust/ the sound is deafening.” It’s an experience of being consumed by your body’s own response to grief, being trapped in what seems like an endless internal state of despair. It’s lovely and heartful, a song to sing along to and realize that no one is alone even in the depths of loneliness. “La Passe” opens with the tinkling of guitars arcing into reverie. This song again revolves around love and loss, but it’s tempered by time and the natural metamorphosis of emotion filtered through artistic expression. It’s beautifully written. While it might come off as pretentious from another band, Sbriglia can sing about “the fantasy that sutures the fabric of reality” in a way that pulls you in closer rather than distancing you.
“Ithaca is Gorges” (referring to the popular slogan found on t-shirts from the town) references a specific, geographically-pinpointed slice of life that is evoked with the shimmering vibrancy that only exists in memories. But for those who contribute to the album’s Indiegogo campaign, “Ithaca” is not the end of the journey. A bonus track, “At Last” (which will be included in the digital download of the album), is an ode to the album itself, a coming-into-being of this very project and the band that made it possible. It’s a testament to the love and passion that go into the making of something beautifully realized that pulled from cross-coastal possibility. “If I could merge the oceans and rearrange the continent/ Atlantic and Pacific no longer to the east and west/ New York and California locked together like a Lego set/ I’d move 60 million people to be with you at last.” Whether it’s about connecting to a faraway lover, a distant friend, a fellow musician, or an entire world of listeners, Misconstruity makes that connection, and makes it powerfully. It’s the celebration — and the homecoming — they deserve.