The amount of ground that itoldyouiwouldeatyou have covered in just the past six or seven months has been legitimately staggering. The eventuality wasn’t exactly a surprise – Get Terrified was a particularly strong showcase of off-kilter yet poignant indie-emo and math-rock that would’ve resonated with so many incredibly easily – but the timeframe was, especially since itoldyouiwouldeatyou began 2018 as virtual unknowns with one of the most anticipated underground albums of 2018 currently in the pipeline. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the central message of inclusivity that’s always at the forefront, chronicling Joey Ashworth’s experiences with societal discrimination and prejudice of their queerness, and the emotional bloodletting that’s arisen from them and so many others who’ve experienced similar things.
As such, it feels in a way that there are reviewers far more qualified to write about Oh Dearism than this one, who’ve been plagued with such struggles themselves and feel a deeper, more impassioned connection to this album than anyone else. But even so, it’s easy to see how flooringly potent Oh Dearism can be, regardless of who you are, finally crystallising itoldyouiwouldeatyou’s status of one of the most important new bands around, and one who are able to capture an essence of humanity in their music that hasn’t been seen in a long time.
And as expected, that does mean that the writing is placed further forward than anything else, which puts into perspective Ashworth’s journey of identity, particularly early on with a track like Earl, King, Whatever and its stark, contrasting images of a funeral and an individual undergoing a process of rebirth and discovery about who they are. It’s the intermingling of abstraction and straight confessionalism that’s the standout feature for itoldyouiwouldeatyou, holding on to a sense of realism – or on a track like Gold Rush, what others might perceive it to be – but wandering through a haze of self-discovery and missing identity, vulnerable and curious but taking all possible paths because it’s just somewhere to go. But it’s the second half that’s perhaps the most telling within this narrative’s progression, where Ashworth discovers that they don’t have an answer, and instead just looks for some form of safety or security. It’s why a track like Craiglockhart rings so poignantly, named after the Scottish hospital that housed the poets Wilfred Owen and Siegried Sassoon during the First World War, and used by Ashworth to represent their own haven away from a society that serves to deny their existence at every turn. But the undercurrents of profound sadness that permeate through this album are palpable, and in Ashworth’s own references to Robert Graves – another poet at Craiglockhart who, rather than returning to the war, stayed out of fear and to hide his own sexuality – there’s the notion raised of wanting to be enclosed in this safety forever, but the likelihood of that being impossible. And in the final track Goodbye To All That, a spoken-word piece about the relationship between a rabbit and a hare, it all feels encapsulated in the line “Happiness is often just as scary as sadness, because it is far easier to lose”.
Even after all that, there’s still a lot to unpack about Oh Dearism, but the depth and detail that frankly gushes out of each piece of imagery is honestly staggering, and coupled with a minimal but incredibly effective score, that sense of sadness and loneliness and the glimmers of hope that poke through feels so wonderfully realised. It’s particularly pertinent in tracks like Craiglockhart and Greek Fire, with the gentle math-rock guitars and cascading drums creating a beautifully vibrant yet delicate soundscape, while the wistful yet bracing drive of Young American and the weeping strings of Gathering Things Together And Not Dividing Them achieving the same result but in much different ways. Regardless though, itoldyouiwouldeatyou have such an incredible knack for melodic richness coupled with a tapping nimbleness that really makes it all stand out, offering that ramshackle, off-kilter charm without ever feeling too obtuse. Alongside production that lets each layer and instrumental flourish stand out without fail, Oh Dearism manages to circumvent a lot of the ramshackle territory that so much of indie-emo can fall into for a sound that’s much more lush, yet continuously defined by features that keep it as its own unique work.
What’s more, this is about as comprehensive of a self-examination as music gets, something which, paired with the musical dexterity and talent that’s onboard, makes for utterly essential listening in almost every way. There’s heart, pain, depth, turmoil and light, all wrapped up in one album without an ounce of fat that feels expertly crafted to push itoldyouiwouldeatyou right to the forefront of the UK’s underground scenes. It might be a bit too unconventional to go beyond that, but that’s nothing that should be held against them; rather, it’s the sort of progressive music (both in execution and ethos) that’s going to hit some audiences with everything it throws at them, and resonate so much stronger in that way. The fact that it’s also one of the best albums of the year speaks volumes, too.
For fans of: Johnny Foreigner, American Football, Drawstring
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Oh Dearism’ by itoldyouiwouldeatyou is released on 16th November on Alcopop! Records / Failure By Design.