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Album Review: This Familiar Smile - Ribbons, Regards and the More Machine

To describe yourself as ‘emo’ to the press is akin to letting the big kids at school beat you up. But as with any genre, if it’s executed well, it is spectacular - just look at how Paramore’s first album led them to their ever-growing success. But emo’s become a dirty word. In fact, just mentioning ‘Paramore’ and ‘emo’ in the same sentence is bound to irate fans of the band.

Unfortunately, the opening to This Familiar Smile’s latest offering, ‘How the Conversation Is’, does nothing to dispel the dated tag they’ve burdened themselves with: brandishing the emo haydays of Sunny Day Real Estate and Gratitude, ‘Ribbons, Regards and the More Machine’ is polished and well-written, but the emotive vocals, lyrics and over-used lead guitar parts are nothing you haven’t heard before. Many, many times before.

However, despite arriving on the “scene” (if there still is one) a little late, the following track, ‘The Night Before the Morning After’, evolves into a mathematical feast through its regularly changing time signatures. It’s a sudden breath of fresh air and the record becomes infinitely less predictable and infinitely more exciting. Despite this, all the complexities they can throw at ‘Ribbons...’ cannot hide the fact that nearly every track on the album is screaming out for a great melody, barring perhaps the beautiful reprise of “Wait for a miracle” on ‘Paper Snow’ and the equally touching ending to '...And Other Short Stories’. It frustratingly showcases what they are capable of.

However, these are fleeting moments on the album. In regards to songs, the closest This Familiar Smile come to emo greatness is the undeniably huge ‘Red Wine’, in which vocalist David Samson practically bleeds emotion into the microphone. This does, however, highlight their biggest flaw; like many emo groups back when the scene was flourishing, they mistake emotion for songs. The lyrics are relatable and the vocals are convincing, but the songs just aren’t there. For some, this will be the appeal, but for everyone else, ‘Ribbons…’ is a collection of solid but forgettable ditties.


'Ribbons, Regards and the More Machine' by This Familiar Smile is available now on Lockjaw Records.

This Familiar Smile on MySpace

Alex Howick

Alter The Press!