Review: Simmer, Your Tonal Mess (Self-Released, 2014)

Your Tonal Mess is the impressive debut EP (available digitally and on cassette) from Cheshire, UK quartet Simmer, and from the opening chords I just knew I was gonna be all over this. Their style is reminiscent of other contemporary bands whose morose emo/pop-punk gets grungy—à la more recent Daylight (errr... Superheaven) and Title Fight—with maybe a tinge of shoegaze influence, too.

Overall, the material relies heavily on a surging midpaced tempo and combines distant, monotone vocals with an up front style of half-yelled singing. The EP opens strong with the hard-hitting and catchy "Emerald," which even drops a quick, simplistic, fuzzy lead. "Understudy" strips down to sparse, shimmery arpeggiated melodies during the verse and occasionally picks up the pace just a touch with some jangly guitar work; while "Sitka" is more consistently energetic—its latter half centering around an awesome bass break before highlighting the swirling reverb effects that bring in the shoegaze type of references. Closer "Tepid Lines" then introduces some ringing post-hardcore chord phrasings and gets a little more aggressive with its layering of textures and dynamic builds.

Everything sounds great for a self-released affair as well, I have no real complaints or suggestions. There's a subtly heavy punch to the mix, the percussion sounds nice and natural, the bass is always pumping away just beneath the center, the noisier guitar textures never get grating, etc.

The lyrics seem to tie together from song to song, but are abstract enough to leave plenty of room for interpretation:

Shield me, from reality. Feed me, more insanity. That pale, imitation. Shorn of all indication. I can see for miles. Stable truth. I don't know. Pinned down by spite. What sparkles. Stable truth. Stubborn stains. Pinned down.

The more I listen to this the more it reminds me of Title Fight, and the more I fucking love every minute of it. Being a grumpy old man, I'm out of the loop on most of this stuff, but I'm a huge fan of this style, and have definitely been on the hunt for more bands of this nature over the past few years, so I'm beyond psyched that Simmer got in touch with me. Like many bands of this nature, their songwriting talents are exceptional, and every tune's a keeper.

So, Your Tonal Mess gets a giant thumbs up and comes highly recommended (it's also on Spotify, if that's your thing). I'm already very much looking forward to hearing more from Simmer—a mere four songs in just 15 minutes ain't enough to hold me over!

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