Although I enjoy all derivations of punk rock, I have a certain soft spot in my heart for the sub-genre of post-hardcore. From Fugazi to .Moneen. to Thursday post-hardcore has supplied me with some of my favorite albums of all time. Unfortunately, I continue to notice that the genre has been falling to the wayside in recent years, being replaced in popularity by such genres as pop-punk, metalcore and something called The League of Extraordinary Djentlemen? No worries though, because Bellingham, WA rockers Rookie Town are here to save(s) the day (pun intended) with their debut album New Forest Floors.
To start things off, I have to acknowledge that this album is short. With nine tracks and a total running time of approximately 25 minutes, I’m still not sure if this is a really short full length or a really long EP. But at the end of the day it is completely irrelevant, because this album hits hard and Rookie Town is able to pack their emotional brand of post-hardcore into that short time frame like no other.
The album opens with “(Sink)” and a chorus of voices painfully scream out “I hope you drown” over a delicately arranged sea of guitar melodies and it’s apparent that the next 25 minutes are going to be a cathartic release of raw emotion. Midway through this short intro the band pauses and drummer Jake Waggoner blasts out a quick, up-tempo drumbeat and the band launches into a fast-paced and simplistic punk jam.
The second song on the album, “I Bet all the Bats are Hiding in the North and in the East” is easily the album highlight. Opening with rippling melodies and the far-off sound of guitar feedback, the song soars into vocalist William Appert’s line “I’ve come around,” which he sings as beautifully as one could imagine. Directly after the band explodes into a cacophonous blend of harsh guitars and underlying melodies, Appert sheds the beauty of the previous line for the raw passion of his desperate screams that saturate the entire album. Along with a chorus of his band mates, Appert shouts the lyrics: “I can’t live here / I can’t breathe” to punctuate the emotion in the song.
Other highlights of the album include the conspicuously named “33-29,” which features the contrast between Appert’s rough vocals and the light melodies that guitarists Clint Sana and Gabe Gonzales create. This contrast is one of the album’s unifying features: for every distorted and crashing guitar-heavy jam, there is a corresponding melody that eschews musical beauty; for every harsh and piercing scream, there is a softly whispered set of lyrics; and for every machine-gun like punk drumbeat, there is a more laid back groove, predominantly featuring the subtler use of toms to fall in line with the supple bass lines of bassist Jeremy Bergevin.
While all the songs on this album are great, those discussed previously – along with jams like “Geo-Now,” “Cactus Swan,” and “(Breathe)” – are where new listeners should begin their relationship with Rookie Town. While this album demonstrates much promise, it is in no way perfect and the band certainly has room to grow, but with New Forest Floors they have proved they are viable contenders in the post-hardcore scene. I anticipate that the band’s follow-up to this album will be even more phenomenal as their collective songwriting capabilities mature and they continue to evolve and hone the sound they’ve already made uniquely theirs.