I The Mighty are a strange case in the post-hardcore world. They’ve got the slick production, the tight grasp on melody and a frontman with the charge and range to be perfectly eligible to slot into the modern class of heavy-hitters, but they’ve tended to gravitate towards more progressive circles and acts like Coheed And Cambria. It’d maybe be comparable to a band like Dance Gavin Dance, but even they’ve got at least one foot in both scenes; I The Mighty have always vehemently wanted to be accepted as a prog-rock band, no matter how suited to post-hardcore they might be.
That ultimately brings up the question of what the aims are with Where The Mind Wants To Go / Where You Let It Go, arguably the band’s most straightforward album to date that does indeed borrow from modern post-hardcore more than anything else, all while centring primarily on feelings of youthful confusion and heartbreak. It’s a bold move to take such an unashamedly pop-leaning pivot, one that has its moments, but arguably feels too lightweight and oversimplified to have a comprehensive, lasting effect.
And yes, a big part of that is the instrumentation which has been smoothened out considerably and struggles to capture I The Mighty in the best light. It’s definitely a case of overlaying it with gloss-heavy production more than anything else, not helping when that really goes overboard like on Chaos In Motion‘s attempt at a modern pop song that feels too jerky and doesn’t benefit from a feeble beat drop, or The Sound Of Breathing‘s very quiet presentation that, for the most part, reduces any guitar to a fluttering little fragment. It feels as though I The Mighty do have a general idea of where they want to go – something like the widescreen pop-rock of Sleepwalker or the combination of twitching beats and more prominent guitars on Silver Tongues – but something ends up lost in translation here, perhaps the niggling feeling that overall song structuring feels weaker than it should, or the fact that there’s so much padding with effects that don’t need to be here.
Thankfully it’s not an issue with the entire album, and even if Where The Mind Wants To Go… feels less engaging overall, I The Mighty are still solid at penning hooks and making them stick out when necessary. There’s a sense of swirling drama to Pet Names thanks to its miasmic bass groove and chorus that feels oddly muted but definitely works for what it is, while there’s an impressive buildup to a fuzzed-up crescendo on Escapism, and 111 Winchester actually finds a way to mesh the two smoother sounds together with a bit of added groove for the best possible result. It also helps Brent Walsh remains as strong a vocalist as ever; he’s in that same bracket as the Trenton Woodleys and Keaton Pierces of the scene, but with a vocal timbre that can sound uncannily similar to Mayday Parade’s Derek Sanders at points, if anything it’s a bit more evocative and malleable, particularly in terms of how driven by emotion so much of this material is.
But that’s where another snag comes into play, in that for as much pining and emotional torment as is going on here, there’s little to spark any real empathy. At least Walsh isn’t overselling his performance, which for this genre can be crippling if made a regular feature, but while there may be some sense of stakes that comes through in the instrumentation of Pet Names or Symphony Of Skin, they’re so restrained vocally that a lot of what’s meant to be conveyed feels neutralised. That’s when things don’t take an ugly lyrical turn as well; for what is primarily a breakup-centric album, Where The Mind Wants To Go… isn’t nearly as infuriating as some others that spring to mind (hi Makeout), but with a track like Where The Mind Wants To Go, where Walsh questions his ex about whether she would regret leaving him if he killed himself, that sheds a sledgehammer to whatever composure that was and honestly should have been left off here.
It’s one of a few issues that this album has, none of which are particularly breaking in their own right, but can seriously stall it out when applied at once. It altogether make Where The Mind Wants To Go… feel misguided rather than outright bad, and album with it’s plan clearly mapped out, but doesn’t account for the hurdles that it inevitably hits anyway. If this is the direction that I The Mighty want to continue in, the heavy lifting is at least done here; there are still parts that need tweaking, but as a broad canvas to take a running start with, this album does suffice.
For fans of: Too Close To Touch, Coheed And Cambria, Slaves (US)
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Where The Mind Wants To Go / Where You Let It Go’ by I The Mighty is released on 20th October on Rude Records.