Simply saying that Old Gray is an emo band from New England might be enough to sell this four piece. And for good reason – the North East is currently booming with this wave of “twinkle daddies,” or bands who rely on catchy lyrics, clean, noodly guitar parts and intricate rhythms. And funny Tumblr pages (Seriously, some good stuff to be found). Bands like Dads, The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid To Die, Algernon Cadwallader and Prawn are currently sparking a lot of interest on the internet, as well as through out various basements on the East Coast. While Old Gray is a newcomer to this scene, having formed in the early months of 2011, they already have two EPs under their belt, the second being Do I Dare Disturb The Universe. This sophomore EP is a clear maturation from their Demo EP, in that it has dropped many of the upbeat riffs in lieu of a heavier, darker sound which tiptoes the line between emo and screamo.
This four track album kicks off with the standout “Her Tongue was Tattooed To The Back of Her Teeth.” This song features every element of a great emo jam. It’s got clean singing intertwined with strained, forced yells, crescendos, rad tapping riffs and bigger-than-life rhythm chords, complete with lyrics worthy of a million Tumblr re-posts. The song neatly finishes off with the repeating “I will let you go/if you want me to,” which evokes an image of dozens of sweater-vest clad kids pilling onto each other in a basement, gang shouting this line right back at the band. Following this awesome piece of sadness is the heavier “Dying Leaves” which features painful emotional yells over a clean, melodic rhythm. From here on out, the song gets messy – but in a good way, with screams and clean vocals dueling it out, one over the other each singing completely different lines. It’s dirty and almost off time, but that’s definitely not a bad thing in this – or any song in the genre. “City Orchards” is much the same, with the heavy-but-clean guitars, screams and an interchange of heavy and calmer parts, and its fair share of tapping licks. What stands out about this particular track is the wall of guitar noise, especially towards the end of the song, where it sounds like the band is sonically throwing everything they have at the listener. I assume this song was recorded with a wall of amps containing no less than fourteen cabinets.
I would call “Instrumental” the weakest track on the album, but calling it weak would not do it justice. It’s a little two minute post-rock jam playing under Howard Beale’s “Mad As Hell” speech from 1974’s Network. Like the speech, it starts off calm and almost lazy, but by the time Beale tells us how he’s “not going to take this anymore”, the song kicks in full swing with a boom of reverby chords and fat tremolo riffs. It’s a song who’s value is found by listening to it passively, as background noise to a dark city street, or to an empty apartment, or some other post-rocky scenario.
Do I Dare Disturb The Universe is noodly, but it sounds nothing like American Football. It’s heavy emo without ripping off Kidcrash or Merchant Ships. Regardles, fans of these bands will surely dig this EP. The tapping riffs shred without being obnoxious, and the vocals are charmingly imperfect. With their second EP, Old Gray has really carved their place in the Northeastern emo scene. I’d like to say that this band is set for huge things, but in the emo circle, huge things includes having 2 500 Facebook fans, 100+ record sales, an unceremonious breakup, and a quiet retirement as a college prof, or a Zoologist. You get the picture.