Math punks Curse League blast down evil’s metaphorical and physical walls on their new album, ‘Laying by the Fire in Good Company.’
Curse League are coming in hot after their epic debut EP Bodega Disco. At only four tracks, Bodega Disco told the moving tale of a woman leaving home to go out into the great unknown, which, in the world of Curse League, was a pretty dark political hellscape. Listening to their brand new album, Laying by the Fire in Good Company (released 4/30/18 independently), it becomes clear that Curse League are using their relentless guitar work and desperate vocals yet again to craft an album of optimistic resistance to the bullshit of this world.
Listen: Laying by the Fire in Good Company – Curse League
The album opens with finger picked guitar, banjo, and a chorus of voices, presumably sitting around a fire in good company. The pastoral introduction recalls the earnest poetry and interludes of The Hotelier’s Goodness, but rather than diving into personal reflections, Curse League uses the under-the-stars jangle as a jumping off point for the album’s sprawling story of an illegal immigrant and an American orphan retreating down to Mexico to find something worth living for. Kinship between an illegal immigrant and an outcast American makes for a compelling narrative, and although it is a political move to spotlight a relationship of this sort, Curse League avoid any simple anti-wall slogans, instead opting to focus intensely on the ups-and-downs their two characters face as they travel south and work to make their way north again.
Lyrically, vocalist/drummer Jake Campbell does a fantastic job weaving poetic moments into plot points. His clawing vocal quality is traditionally emo, but it feels too simple to put him or Curse League as a whole into the old school emo camp. And although similar in sound to their peers The Hotelier and their record release bill-mate awakebutstillinbed, Curse League’s take on the new wave of emo relies on an emotional intensity in order to give an earnest look outward at the world around them rather than an intense dissection of their personal, internal complexities. For example when Jake and company plead “what the hell is true north anyway” on standout “Dunes of Yuma,” it seems less like a sentiment of personal anguish and more of a collective longing for a communal truth in an increasingly privatized and isolated world. The ferociously optimistic sounding track also features the lyric “cowboys indians/real guns again,” a poignant take on how the “this land is our land!” sentiment is in deep irony to our country’s pillaging past. Curse League are using their album narrative to reveal the complexities of large people groups intersecting, which, while daunting and often discouraging, they face with resilience and a commitment to sticking together.
Listen: “Dunes of Yuma” – Curse League
In light of the verbose lyrical angst mixed with the raw, unyielding instrumental talent, it becomes increasingly difficult not to fall for the essentially punk spirit of Laying by the Fire in Good Company. The addicting instrumental track “Narcocorrido Nuevo” serves as a tribute to the genre of Narcocorrido music, a strain of Mexican folk music that often speaks poetically to the difficult life circumstances that drug smuggling and border complications can cause, often with a polka beat that simultaneously makes the genre beautiful and danceable. It makes sense that Curse League found inspiration in a genre that dances in the face of brutal realities and division, and when they close the album with the lyric “the daughter, the meth cooks, the poor man, the hallowed, the angel/they all sing the same song,” it’s clear they’re all in on the inherent dignity of humankind. And on the off-chance someone is against the band’s pretty overt sentiments, any fan of math rock or emo will certainly find Laying by the Fire in Good Company’s well produced sound appealing to their ears. The bait is live, join the Curse League.
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📸 © Scott Ohashi