Your rebuttal, Fred? It seemed that as soon as Taking Back Sunday announced their reunion with former guitarist John Nolan, TBS alumnus, Fred Mascherino, came out with a new band. Whether or not the upcoming release of their self-titled debut album was intended to coincide with that remains to be seen, but one thing is certain – Terrible Things can hold their own. Terrible Things is a merger of some of the most promising players in alternative music – former Taking Back Sunday guitarist, Fred Mascherino, ex-Hot Rod Circuit guitarist Andy Jackson, and previous Coheed and Cambria drummer, Josh Eppard. Doing well not to sound like a rehash of any of the aforementioned groups, Terrible Things is powerful and promising.
My biggest reservation regarding Terrible Things was simply whether or not Fred could create a stimulating package of music – a fear which stemmed from the disappointment that was The Color Fred. As it turns out, Terrible Things contains the most inspired music Mascherino has ever created – more likely than not, because Terrible Things was written about a two-year-long series of arson fires that ravaged his hometown of Coatesville, Pennsylvania. The band’s debut marks improved lyricism on Fred’s part. I wouldn’t call him a wordsmith, but Mascherino’s lyrics seem more genuine than is typical for his work – “the city sleeps/except for you and me/because we know better.” The melodies he worked into this album are beyond memorable. Josh’s drumming isn’t extremely complex, but it’s as dynamic and full as ever. His playing is notably different than that of his work with Coheed and Cambria – I don’t think I had ever heard him use a hi-hat prominently until I heard Terrible Things. As a Coheed fanboy, it’s comforting to see Eppard return to form. Andy’s contributions come in the form of backing vocals and lead guitar, adding depth to Mascherino’s melodies. Although the songs on Terrible Things were mostly coined by Fred, Andy performs some lead vocals to the relief of Hot Rod Circuit fans.
There are really no weak songs on the album. “Revolution” sounds like a chart attempt, but holds its own as a song. My only qualm with it is with the fact that its verse sounds suspiciously like “Saturnus” by The Receiving End of Sirens. Even the worst song on Terrible Things, “Been Here Before,” is a solid track – but the band is clearly more adept at writing hard-hitting songs. The third track, “Up at Night,” is a contender for top song, boasting the strongest lyrics on the album, and is easily the most unforgettable melodically. Terrible Things ends on a high note – “The Arsonist’s Wife” and “Can’t Be True.” “The Arsonist’s Wife” is as melodic as it is grand and commanding – another candidate for best song. You can hear Josh’s background in Coheed shine through, and the clips from news broadcasts regarding the arson fires in Fred’s hometown made the song really hit home. The eyebrow-raising guitar work in “Can’t Be True” makes the song, creating sincere closure to a powerful album and subject.
Terrible Things is massive songwriting success – each song sounds fresh and the band is practically impossible to pigeonhole because of it. The album refrained from using overused chord progressions, which is hard to do after 60 years of popular of popular music. It would be a task for anyone to listen to songs like “Conspiracy” and anticipate where the band will take the song next. The songs on Terrible Things are edgy and heartrending, but retain a sense of infectiousness that won’t let listeners put it down. Jackson’s musical background leads me to hope that he has more songwriting input on Terrible Things’ next release, but given the concept, it was probably necessary for Mascherino to handle most of the writing on the album.
Terrible Things is greater than the sum of its parts. The combined musical idiosyncrasies of Mascherino, Jackson, and Eppard create an exceptional product. Contrary to what their name might suggest, Terrible Things is doing very good things.