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| PREPARE TO BE WRONG
|1) I Don't Want This Anymore
2) It Never Gets Easier
3) Later That Year
4) A Slow Descent
5) Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)
6) With God On Our Side
| As one of the first Straylight Run fans, I was greatly taken in by the power and emotion that fueled the half a dozen demos released for free on the band's website. And, like the rest of the listening community, I appreciated the band's charitable download selection but was thirsty for a physical CD to carry around in my player. Something official. We got it in a full-length debut on Victory Records, which recreated several of the demos along with a score of fantastic new material. The debut album was a total success, keeping our capitivation and establishing the band as much more than a fad fueled by curiosity as to what ex-Taking Back Sunday members would be doing in the future. With only minor disappointments on the record, new material was anxiously awaited, and this EP follow-up had a big job: letting fans know just what direction the band would be taking after their incredibly successful start. Entitled Prepare To Be Wrong, I'm really not sure what to expect... because apparently my expectations would be incorrect anyway.
With this in mind, the first track will frighten you a bit. "I Don't Want This Anymore" is... well, a strange one. Michelle takes lead, and she sings an eerie hymn-style vocal solo that is quietly met by gentle melody and beats. Even as bass and John's backing vocals enter, the song weirds you out a bit. But as the song continues, you get caught up in it, and you find yourself actually liking the unique tone and vibe the song exerts. Lyrically a declaration of Michelle's desire to break up with some poor joe, the song is innovative and entrapping. As it fades out, however, there is a degree of hope that the whole album won't turn out quite as out there.
Don't worry, it doesn't--the next track, "It Never Gets Easier," is classic Straylight. This song was originally released as a B-Side titled "Costello," which should be familiar to the hardcore fans. The song is better recorded, taken a little slower, with some disconcertingly placed background vocal layers, but overall a solid melody. Having been a B-Side, this song really could have been a track on the full-length, and it's good to see it released to the masses on this EP.
"Later That Year" is the next track... like the opener, it starts out a bit strange, with distanced drum beats and bizarre vocals that are met by an increasing acoustic guitar presence. When John starts singing, the song becomes a bit more typical, and eventually makes itself clear as a sweet acoustic ballad with John and Michelle singing vocal duties. More sounds become involved in the sound, blending beautifully. When John starts singing the line, "We did the math... it wasn't worth it after all," it seems at first a bit forced and redundant, but as it becomes drowned in more melody and more instrumental, paired with Michelle's singing, you suddenly feel swept up in a whirlwind of poetic beauty. Finishing sweetly, this song leaves you all warm and fuzzy-like.
Track four is huge for me. My personal favorite Straylight Run demo was "A Slow Descent," and I was absolutely crushed when I discovered the song wasn't being redone for the full-length. So while "Existentialism on Prom Night," "The Tension and the Terror," and others were kept alive in the band's repertoire, it seemed as though my favorite track had been discarded by the band. Enter: absolute joy, as I see it listed on the track listing for this record. With some of Straylight Run's full-length revisions doing their demo versions some injustice--in my humble opinion--and others featuring a lot of improvement, I didn't know what to expect to see done to this song.
The intro for this track worried me. The neat intro sounds of the demo were recreated for this recreation, but just weren't the same. John and Michelle begin singing earlier, without giving you much time to let the mood be created before the vocals start. Also, Michelle switches up her melody to a different tune than John's, which definitely threw me off. I tried not to overanalyze it, closing my eyes and letting those beautiful words I'd fallen in love with sink in like they always had. Once the first verse finishes and the rest of the instruments kick in, however, the song has arrived. As beautiful as ever, this song epitomizes the heartfelt sound Straylight Run masters. John's vocals stay just as strained and pure, avoiding any overproduction flaws. The piano is still gorgeous. The lyrics are still amazing. If you never heard this song in its demo form, you haven't heard Straylight Run--and now's your chance.
The next song is also a bit different. Entitled "Hands In The Sky (Big Shot)," this song starts off with some intense, slow drumbeats and beautiful riffs that drip over the song. John's voice is sunken but hard, singing with a sense of bitterness and calm frustration. Michelle's addition is a lightening addition as more furious sounds are added, creating a brilliant contrast. Production effects make this song intriguing. This song isn't as eerie as "I Don't Want This Anymore," but it's far from formulaic as far as this band goes. Suddenly, the drums intensify. Added effects create a medley of noise, and John starts shouting an anthem that grabs you by the neck and pulls you close. More sound. Louder. John keeps singing. The repetivity is captivating, the beat uncontrollably powerful. A typically laid-back and melodic band, this song is a change that might sound unwelcomed, but is absolutely riveting. It's fantastic. This is one of the most intense, aggressively powerful songs I've heard. You will be left stunned.
The final track on this CD was an interesting choice. "With God On Our Side" is, for those uneducated swines out there, a Bob Dylan song, covered wonderfully with Straylight Run's sound. I'm not going to get too involved in trying to describe this... just know that it's done plenty justice, fueling a classic political piece by a folk favorite into a classically emotion-laden Straylight Run piece.
Overall, this EP is not a disappointment. While some fans may have hoped the band would have thrown more onto the album--perhaps the band's enjoyable rendition of Brand New's "Play Crack The Sky"--Prepare To Be Wrong shows a lot of promise for the band. The songs on this record reveal the band's intriguing experimentations with some new sounds, while staying true to their style and giving us what we want. Neither self-indulgent nor overly catering to the older fans, this CD should meet anyone's expectations. The full-length is destined to be a classic that everyone should own a copy of, but once you've attained it, this EP is the perfect addition to your collection.