Frank Iero and The Future Violents are stoking up interest for their latest album, Barriers, with videos for Young and Doomed and Great Party. The latter has hit 76,767 in under two months. In the wake of an epic co-headlining European tour with Laura Jane Grace, it’s the perfect time to take a deep dive into Barriers, track-by-track.
The opening track, A New Day’s Coming, starts with an extended note that seems almost religious with its vibrato. It’s not long before the earnest vocal tone, with particularly passionate interjections, marks the record out as comfortable territory for fans Iero’s brought with him from his My Chemical Romance days. The earlier religiosity of the song is cemented with a choral chorus, thought the extended electric guitar solo is certainly secular. Despite the gothic church atmosphere and a background of regret and devastation, the lyrics are optimistic overall: “Don’t be sad/leave your past in the past” is the overriding sentiment.
If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for identifying Young and Doomed as classic grunge. It’s notable that the album was recorded and mixed by Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey). Yet there’s one almighty nod to Iero’s own musical heritage. The line “I promise that I’m not okay/(Oh, wait, that’s the other guy)” is sure to excite and agitate diehard MCR fans in equal measure. Perhaps so much as to distract from other smart lines, including “I might be a drag/That no one wants to inhale.”
Fever Dream strays towards screamo, cut with Deftones-esque vocals in calmer moments. Could there be a pithier portrait of an ageing rockstar than “I’m old and loaded/
I got it all and I still want more”? The realities of the present are tied up with everpresent memories of past regrets: “I need a brand new shadow.”
The Host has an early Foo Fighters style intro. Wordplay combining imagery, reality and emotional states abounds. See, for example, “unmade bed and blanket statements.”
Basement Eyes is vocally driven until chugging instrumentation drives in to keep the pace as Iero sings about keeping the faith. Again, the passage of time and the regretful end of youthful excess are lamented. It’s a call to arms that’s destined to be a live anthem getting fans chanting along.
Ode To Destruction starts as a simple, heartfelt piano chant that’s just aching for the rock guitar and drums that inevitably crash in. Both this track and The Host were written by Evan Nestor, Iero’s guitarist and brother-in-law. The band also features Music Closeup favourite Kayleigh Goldsworthy – who we often see on these shores playing with Dave Hause – plus Tucker Rule from Thursday and Matt Armstrong of Murder By Death. Iero has described this band as “the dream team.”
The Unfortunate is about divorce but it a hint of a jangly pop sound lifts the mood. Perhaps there’s something optimistic about a fresh start: “I’m sorry, darling/You deserve a better song” gives the vibe that every ending is a new beginning.
Moto Pop spits venom at hyperspeed like old school New York punk. Still, the intro speaks of a destructive progress: “We create a new sound to kill the old sound/
We open old wounds to flood the room.” There’s recognition that the slash and burn approach is not necessarily positive or welcome, as scenes appearing to come from nowhere tend to engender backlash: “That outside world will only cut your throat/And your hometown is just hoping you’ll implode.”
The clever title of Medicine Square Garden is matched by brutal honesty about anxiety: “Such lovely eyes you have that cry yourself to sleep/I got so scared last night I couldn’t breathe/I was paralyzed.” Musically, there are hints of The Academy Is mixed with Head Automatica.
No Love is a vocally downbeat dissection of the dying days of a relationship, an effect enhanced by downtuned doubletracking and shoegaze instrumental influences in the verses.
Police Police kicks in quickly. It has the urgency of being pursued. The lyrics are the most overtly politically of the album, touching on contemporary inaction over climate change and the detention of migrant kids: “Leave what’s left for the ones who are doomed to come next…The pursuit of happiness is a fucking right…No more silence while children scream locked in cages built overseas.”
Great Party is louder, clearer and more personal, but no more optimistic: “Tired of acting tough when I should’ve known better/And our words get stuck so we taught ourselves to smile…just when you thought it can’t get worse/always it does.”
Six Feet Down Under weaves in and out of a rocky talking blues that deals directly with mortality and reality, or lack thereof: “There’s a part of me that’s not sure if I’m here.” That sentiment is not at all surprising considering that Iero was involved in a horrific bus crash that could easily have proved fatal. We’re let in on a stream of consciousness from what could have been final moments: “I don’t wanna hurt no more/I don’t wanna feel like before/I don’t want to settle the score/I don’t wanna die here.”
The album’s closer, 24 Lush, settles down like a rock lullaby before rising to anthemic levels, echoing the religious tenor and vibrating notes of the former Catholic school boy’s opening song.
The bumper 14 track record is strewn with expletives, self-reflection and musical influences, meaning there’s enough to interest modern day rock fans as well as early ’00s emo purists.
Barriers is out now on UNFD on CD, vinyl, digital streaming and download.
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