Somewhere between the new wave of emo, the slight grit of Where You Want to Be and the occasional injection of rock-styled energetic songwriting – that is where you’ll find Have Mercy’s debut LP, the aptly titled The Earth Pushed Back. Aptly if only because it seems like a sort of answer to finding some sort of bridge to the artistic push of emo without losing the sensibility of a band like Taking Back Sunday in the process. But through ten tracks, Have Mercy slowly creep their powerful melodies and emotionally driven teeth into something that doesn’t really fit any one musical description. That mix though helps keep you on your toes, as The Earth Pushed Back is certainly no pushover, leaving a mark that is tough to shake regardless of how you want to classify it.
Have Mercy show a few different strengths on this record, one of them being a sense of dynamics both in and between songs that accents both the highs and lows of the band’s songwriting. “Ancient West” personifies Taking Back Sunday with its thundering rhythm section fills layered amongst aching vocals, gang and otherwise, while the following track “Hell” floats with subtle guitars and laid-back drumming that occasionally peaks with huge strums and strained vocals. It’s an interesting mix of genres and sub-genres that isn’t without some noted influence, but isn’t a complete shit show in the same sense.
Another peak of the record lies at the effectiveness of the lyrics where they might not potentially be the most poetic or elegant at times. Sure, there’s power in honesty. A song like “Weak at the Knees” is coy at times in how it pulls off a love story, but the power with which the lines meld with such epic melodies makes for a stirring track. And they don’t really stop there, as the instrumental quirks in “Let’s Talk About Your Hair” lace well with the fun, but quite serious nature of the lines strained out in the chorus. Pair with this the range of the vocals, from spoken to sung to strained, and you get the feel of an album that can soar high when it rocks but sound almost folksy when it is stripped down (“Living Dead”).
The one drawback, if it can be called that, lies within the ability for this record to run together a little bit. Sometimes it can slide from one song into another quite effortlessly, and while it can be a feat to do so on a record such as this, it makes it a bit difficult to know what you’re listening to unless it is starkly different. A number of tracks open with some light guitar plucks, and it takes a minute for the song to really stand out – especially when the formula of light guitars, held-in vocals and lack of drums becomes more frequent than not. On the flip side though, the bigger moments of the tracks really do stand out, whether it be lyrically (“Let’s Talk About Your Hair”), melodically in the vocals and instruments (“This Old Ark”) or musically as a whole (“Ancient West”). It’s a bit of a give and take at times, and it isn’t a huge drawback, but it was enough of a trend to take notice.
Though it’s a little easy to be picky when it comes to an album as such, the gradual attraction to the songs on The Earth Pushed Back grows and grows with each listen. If you’re a sucker for that old Taking Back Sunday mentality, you’re gonna find something to reminisce about – but if you’re wading through the sea of nu-alternative and emo this record will be an interesting diversion at the least. In the end, Have Mercy’s charm and chops are certainly able to win over anyone looking for an emotionally-driven sing-along – making it a hell of a debut full-length.