Monday, January 9, 2012

Record review: The Assembly - 'The Future Has Been Sold'

By Frank Krolicki

The last we heard from Chicago alt-rockers The Assembly, they were exploring rather dark territory via 2008's The Tide Has Turned, a record that put more emphasis overall on setting an intense mood than supplying overt hooks. After a lengthy period of silence the four-piece has returned with The Future Has Been Sold, an eight-track album that retains elements of Tide's intensity and paranoia--as well as its powerful guitar crunch--while mixing in catchier choruses and lighter pop touches that make for their most accessible set of songs to date.

Future opens with "Matters" and "That's Not Enough," two rockers that play on the underlying darkness of The Assembly's sound, but with big, immediate hooks and guitar riffs galore to draw you in quickly. In particular, "Matters"--which according to the band is about social media overload--is a high-energy introduction that finds frontman Dave Suh repeating, "When you take matters into your own hands you forget everything that you know," in his distinctive vocal style that's equal parts '80s post-punk (think The Psychedelic Furs' Richard Butler) and '90s radio punk/alt-rock (think Billie Joe Armstrong). Those descriptors go for the music, too, which throughout alternates in referencing both decades and styles.

Later in the album, "Without A Fight" and "Without You" pick up where the first two tracks left off, but other material brings in a brighter, poppier sound that marks the most noticeable difference from Tide. The subject matter still relies mostly on dissatisfaction and a touch of gloom, but the vibe on "Who Do You Need Now, "In Control" and "Deafen the Sound of You" is more upbeat, the melodies prettier and the synths more pronounced. The record ends with the cautiously optimistic "Feel Better," where Suh asks, "Wouldn't it be so nice to feel better? Or will you stay here and feel the same?" over twinkling synths and a relaxed beat. It's a fitting end to The Assembly's latest offering--my personal favorite from the band so far--which proves that cynicism and hopefulness can be a satisfying combination.

The Assembly will be celebrating the release of The Future Has Been Sold with a show at Double Door on Friday, January 20th with Red Jr., Up Off Down and DJ Dihty Dihty (admission is only $1 and things kick off at 9. The Assembly starts at 10). You can download the album now on iTunes or get a hard copy via CD Baby.

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