Sorority Noise Are Different
Posted: by The Editor
On 2017’s You’re Not As ___ As You Think, one of the most intimately personal songwriters of our time took on the challenge of refracting his sobering introspections into an ambiguous rallying cry for his fans. Cameron Boucher’s lyrics were always, and continued to be, brutally forthright surges of catharsis on YNAAYT, and in an act of valiant generosity toward his audience, he attempted to translate his own, very real, experiences with death and mental illness into a sort of musical support system. Most artists wouldn’t be able to pull something like that off without at least a hint of self-righteousness and/or melodrama. And honestly, if you’re not already sold on the genre, then your hesitations upon glancing at an emo record with a fill-in-the-blank title are understandable.
Fan or not, Sorority Noise are a band you need to see live to fully get. And not because they’re extremely tight (they are), or because the crowds go off (they do), but because there’s not a shred of insincerity to be found between the four of them on that stage. In fact, they’re chillingly genuine. To see them perform songs like “No Halo,” “A Better Sun,” “Disappeared” and, most strikingly, “Your Soft Blood” is to realize how authentic those songs are, and therefore how visibly difficult some of them are for Boucher to perform.
Last night in Pittsburgh, Sorority Noise kicked off their last run of U.S. dates before they go on an indefinite hiatus. They played like it was their last show ever, and although it was disheartening to think that it was the beginning of an undefined end, it didn’t feel like a bittersweet farewell. It made their impending break feel like a natural and necessary moment in the band’s lifetime. People who make music like this, who give so much of themselves to their listeners, need recovery time.
However, the band didn’t play like they were eager to get out of the game—but like they’re at the top it. Sorority Noise are a fucking rock band. Years ago, when self-proclaimed Van Halen lover Adam “Scuff” Ackerman would add some improvised shreds into the verses of “Blonde Hair, Black Lungs,” Boucher couldn’t help but snicker in between his lines. At this point, any sense of ironic rockism is gone. Scuff’s hair is shoulder-length now, and last night he toted a Queens of the Stoneage shirt as he and his bandmates violently thrashed across the stage at every opportunity. They sounded big, the new songs especially. Huge, crunchy riffs, a thundery bass tone, smashing drums, and whenever Boucher let loose his ferocious screams, the threat of blood spitting out onto the mic seemed plausible.
None of their emo-revival peers can match that level of gusto, and Sorority Noise only seem to be getting louder and more intense as they mature. The magnitude of their stage presence, as well as Boucher’s behavior (he used to be notorious for heartfelt monologues, but hardly spoke between songs last night), made the elephant in the room particularly difficult to ignore. YNAAYT may not have been their Devil & God, but the parallels between Sorority Noise and Brand New were startlingly apparent last night. The sense of underemployment and disconnect from who they are now when they played their O.G. pop-punk songs; the religious references in their more expansive, alt-rocky new ones; Boucher’s stoic body language, his baseball cap tucked over his face, and his fits of emotional purging during the sonic climaxes; and then just the very performance of “Your Soft Blood,” which is one of the only successful pulls from the “Limousine” playbook to ever exist, and therefore one of the most profoundly arresting rock songs of the decade. They brought in a saxophonist to blare during the breakdowns, the final of which they played exponentially heavier than its original recording—mirroring the revamps Brand New made to “Welcome to Bangkok” and “You Won’t Know” on the Devil & God tour a couple years back.
Obviously Sorority Noise aren’t, and most likely don’t want to be, “this generation’s Brand New,” as a dear friend of mine whispered to me midway through their set last night. There are very few lyrical similarities between the two acts, and the way Sorority Noise have carried themselves on and off the field throughout their five-year tenure is a far cry from the cover-star bravado of Brand New’s early days (which of course includes Lacey’s disgusting behavior). In fact, that behavior even makes this a painful connection to make. However, in a purely musical sense, Brand New possessed a similar on-stage magnetism to that of Sorority Noise, and eerie as it was to witness last night, there’s some comfort in knowing that a group of people like Boucher and Co. are inadvertently carrying that torch—but with the utmost respect for their fans, peers and selves.
“This is the part where I’m a marathon runner / and both my ankles are sprained,” a lyric from “A Better Sun,” felt particularly profound to hear last night. Sorority Noise are poised for a big win (in some ways, they’ve already won), sounding better than ever live and writing the most complex and enduring songs of their still-young careers. Sprains aren’t permanent, though, and like any smart athlete, taking the time to recoup is better for the long-run.
Eli Enis | @eli_enis
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