There has always been a blurred line between poetry and music; who’s to say that they aren’t the same thing? Doesn’t a well written song with beautiful lyrics also qualify to be poetry? Jim Beck, of post-hardcore / post-indie duo Cassels disagrees. He sees the two arts separately, with a hostile border between them rather than one which is blurred and androgynous. Epithet was written to prove that you can in fact make poetry work as music, whether or not you believe they are the same. How well has it worked?
Mixed is the answer. The musicianship of the Beck brothers is present and impressive although their lyrics seem to say too much without really saying anything at all. Lyrics like “Confidence plus apathy plus alcohol equals ecstasy, which particularly stirring speech on the inner workings of agricultural policy” from opening track Coup work within the track but they read as hollow verses, lacking the depth they promise with their intellectual sound. You can write as many synonyms for your lyrics as you like, but if they don’t have meaning, then this counts as a decent song rather than deep poetry. This pattern continues throughout the album. War Is A Really Clever Metaphor For Divorce delivers a chilled opening before rolling into an incredibly rounded and deeply pounding rock set-piece – coasting to the beat of Jim’s once again intellectual sounding lyrics. This will be a fan favourite from this album, which is well earned.
In contrast to the majority of the album, Jim’s message on poetry / music is clear and well delivered in the track Where Baseball Was Invented. A screw-eyed look at the class system in the UK, Cassels define the upper-classes in a scathing yet precise verbal bombardment. This track really holds up Epithet, and with it we see what Jim wanted the album to be. These lyrics read as poetry; each word has a meaning and has been selected by the author to convey his message as effectively as possible. Not only in lyrical content, this track hits hard with no smoke breaks making it a suitable follow-up to Cassels’ popular single Weight, which offered so much promise for the band’s debut.
An honourable mention for This Song Has A Name But We Don’t Like To Talk About It, which when compared to the album’s previous tracks attacks like a nuclear-powered staffy. Fifty-six seconds of thrashing lyrics, riffs, pounding drums come and go without making a fuss. Detailing the features of angry characters and discussing how society treats them – fear and ignorance. The track displays Cassels’ ability to defy genre definitions by effectively being a thrash-punk song before panting towards the end but also keeping its raw emotion on display.
The message Jim worked to convey with Epithet is heard loud and clear. It may be ambitious, it may not have worked as well in some aspects as planned, but what has been delivered is a tight album – especially when looking at it purely in a musical sense. Cassels may not have lived up to the promise of Weight, Epithet hits just the right notes to be an album to remember from 2017.
For fans of: Weirds, Bad Sign, Enter Shikari
Words by Conor Tollan
‘Epithet’ by Cassels is released on 6th October on Big Scary Monsters.