The story of Selfish Things is a very familiar one, especially in an age where music has become such a key outlet for expressing personal struggles and turmoils. What started as a solo project for vocalist Alex Biro blossomed into a four-piece, now a more stable foundation for Biro’s grappling with his own feelings of nihilism and questions of free will.
And when it comes to how that’s expressed on Vertical Love, all the connections that Selfish Things create make a lot of sense. Musically, its foundations rest in the tense, muted emo-pop of the mid-2000s, and with a vocal tone somewhere between My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way and Twenty One Pilots’ Tyler Joseph, the emotional weight of Biro’s songs throw back to a very recognisable source. But at least with those bands, there’s a greater sense of stakes or drama; by comparison, it’s more than a bit disheartening to see Selfish Things’ attempt as flavourless alt-rock leftovers, pared back for Biro to simper and brood to little avail.
Ultimately that approach is somewhat understandable, allowing the writing and expression to take precedence thanks to a more understated canvas, and in an example like the gradually-building piano ballad 1435, that can work to great effect. But compare that to the underweight twinkle of Five Years or the near-static creep of Rust Cohle Never Sleeps, and anything that can really be described as a highlight is few and far between. It’s telling that 8147 Mulholland Terrace, the track that most resembles a traditional alt-rock song, is the best one here, mostly because it’s not such a fragmented, unmodulated piece like so much of this EP is; far too often Vertical Love feels like it could’ve been given a few more production buffs to really benefit it, and judging by the plateauing, colourless production, it becomes evident that what was on offer was used in the wrong places.
But probably the most annoying thing is how there does seem to be something of a good song glittering out of pretty much all of these tracks, but they’re yet to be unearthed amid the dense coating that’s been left all over them. As far as the personal, cathartic angle goes, that’s all well and good, but the balance between that and the method of delivery needs to reach something much closer to an equilibrium; it’s the reason why so many emo and metalcore bands in the same vein struggle to be taken seriously with their content. Thankfully Selfish Things aren’t to that extent, but this isn’t exactly that much more preferable.
For fans of: My Chemical Romance, Dashboard Confessional, Set It Off
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Vertical Love’ by Selfish Things is released on 16th March on A Wolf At Your Door Records.