To the untrained ear, hardcore can sound like a load of noise; snotty, shouty vocals, a few distorted chords and a relentless beat. Simple. But, really, it takes a lot of moulding to create the right sound, to hone that punk attitude and to craft the songs with the right amount of passion, vitriol and infectious rage. As you can probably tell from the rating, somewhere along this process Teeside’s Taller Than Trees don’t quite hit the mark.
Now this is tough, knowing where to make allowances for the band’s sound. The production is rough and gritty, as it should be. It sounds cheap and raw and, well, how a hardcore EP should do, to an extent. This doesn’t excuse the unrefined songwriting and some of the questionable choices the band make when approaching this, their first EP. ’40 Sex’ is playing an explosive opening track rather that actually being one, failing to truly sell any of the brutality it alludes to, whilst ‘Playing Dead’ climaxes too soon and runs its welcome out about thirty seconds in.
Things improve with ‘Rule #1 Cardio’. The drums are bludgeoning and the riffs are powerful, but the lyrics and the vocal performance are distracting. With more time and care this could have been a great song; Taller Than Trees clearly want to tell a story with their music, but to do this effectively awkward gaps in the flow of the lyrics and the quality of what is being sung needs to improve.
There are seeds of greatness here, but there’s still a number of qualities lacking that their influences do so well; the intelligence and rawness of Every Time I Die, the intensity of Gallows, the ballsy stomp of Comback Kid. All these things sound like they could be there in Taller Than Trees‘ sound, but they are absent. This leaves the listener with a facsimile of good hardcore, a well-executed shell that feels without the substance and soul that makes for great music and a truly satisfying listening experience.
Hardcore has some great bands and a rich, diverse history, as well as a thriving British hardcore scene. This is a good time to be in an aspiring new punk band. Over the next few releases, hopefully Taller Than Trees will refine their sound, smooth off the rough edges and crank up the rage, but as it stands on this first outing, it just lacks heart.
Written by Grant Bailey