Sorority Noise’s acoustic companion to You’re Not As _____ As You Think drains all the fun from the project before they go on hiatus.
Philadelphia’s Sorority Noise is such an odd band to be a fan of. On one hand, they make catchy Weezer-influenced pop-punk, and frontman Cameron Boucher has been a vocal advocate of mental health treatment. On the other, they often over shoot and try to write really serious, dense songs that often fall flat, and the catchier ones don’t hold up nearly as well. While YNAAYT is Sorority Noise’s last album for the foreseeable future, it seems like a weak note to go out on: A reworking of You’re Not As ______ As You Think that strips all the parts that made that album special.
Listen: YNAAYT – Sorority Noise
In my original review of You’re Not As, I wrote about how Cameron Boucher’s voice was fuller and the slow songs were the best Sorority Noise had ever written. In retrospect, “Second Letter from St. Julien” or “A Better Sun” aren’t any better than past Sorority Noise ballads and adding strings or piano doesn’t make them more enjoyable. On the louder songs like “No Halo” or “Disappeared,” Boucher’s voice is weaker, which works since they’re acoustic, but in losing the chest-pounding instrumental, Boucher doesn’t scream, and most of the emotion is eradicated. While these are Boucher’s best lyrics to date, they don’t stand nearly as well without Adam Ackerman’s shredding.
The best summation of YNAAYT (3/2/2018) comes in the replacement of “Where Are You” with a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel #2.” While the band has shown it’s affinity for covering classic and new artists, this studio cover has come out of the blue, and it doesn’t bring anything to the table. It’s not particularly good or bad; it’s fine. No one asked for a reworking of this album, and this is pretty but pointless. There aren’t any versions on this that are preferable to their original album counterparts, and it’s such an odd choice for Sorority Noise.
YNAAYT comes right as Sorority Noise have announced that they’ll be on indefinite hiatus once all their touring responsibilities are finished. While there’s no doubt that Sorority Noise will someday return, YNAAYT seems like such a weak note to go out on. The original album saw the band growing so much from the group that kicked off their run with lyrics like “I’m so scared of dying alone that I’ll kill myself right here right now[i].” YNAAYT forces one to reconsider its original album, and unintentionally, their whole discography. Where Joy, Departed and Forgettable were mainly fun albums, You’re Not As ______ As You Think took the elements that made those albums great and put a solemn spin on them.
What YNAAYT has done is forced me to think about how much I’ve interacted with Forgettable or Joy, Departed since either of those came out: not a lot. Sorority Noise has had a ton of ambition and some pretty good songs, and they’re nearly universally beloved in the pop-punk and emo scenes, but for some reason, they’ve never graduated to Wonder Years or Modern Baseball level success. It leaves me to wonder if Sorority Noise wasn’t a good band to begin with or if I’m just getting old. The defense for the former is the songs don’t really hold up as acoustic versions so they weren’t good to begin with, but the defense for the latter is that at a certain point I would’ve eaten up this release.
On YNAAYT, Sorority Noise follow in recent footsteps set by the likes of Kevin Devine and Conor Oberst, before calling it a day. To some extent, it’s fitting: the album has always been a weighty meditation on death, and it’s removed from everything likable about Sorority Noise. “Using” or “Rory Shield” really work, because they can get a crowd to mosh and pogo. When revisiting all of Sorority Noise’s albums, the songs that are best to go back to are punk bangers. In turning every song into an atmospheric ballad, the Philly quartet has drawn back the curtain and showed that maybe some of us are too old to just keep up with pop-punk trends like acoustic, orchestrated companion albums.
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[i] Isn’t that poetic?