The journeying process of grief and the monumental shift that can take place when one endures extreme loss is a singular experience. No one quite grieves the same. A dedication of sorts to that long walk through grief and recovery and the senseless, tragic nature of suicide and those loved left in the wake and rubble when one reaches the point where they see no other option than to end their life. Indie rock band Sorority Noise grapples with emotional ugliness that can ensue following such a death with their newest album “You’re Not as ____ As You Think” an ode to the permanence of death and the insidious nature of depression and drug addiction.
Having lost two close friends, one to suicide and one to a heroin overdose, lead singer Cameron Boucher lends a real sense of raw gravitas to the songs, wailing and wringing emotional release out of every word of every song. This is an album where the lyricism showcases a writer going through the stages of grief and loudly and messily as one does in real life, using art as a key to catharsis without ever finding the neat ending one might find in a story more conventionally told. Death impacts us all, and Sorority Noise’s latest doesn’t compromise that fact, instead completely dedicating itself to the idea that this experience they’ve gone through is both independent to them while also speaking to the universal elements.
The most definitive song on the album is the single “No Halo” which plays with the hearty and rhythmic notes of their prior albums, all gusto punk-rock and powerful choruses that juxtapose with lyrics that hint at the pain lying beneath the surface.
I slept 8 hours total, I barely sleep/Maybe that’s why I’ve been weak/The same things that plague you still plaguing me
Boucher has spoken about the anxiety and depression he experienced following his friends untimely deaths and in “No Halo” he deals with the random nature of depression, how he is feeling the similar emotions of deep sadness and aimlessness, feeling adrift in the world as he’s even unable to attend his friends funeral. These themes are carried over to “Disappeared” the other single on the album. In it Boucher sings:
I let my hair down today/And I took a shower for the first time in what felt like weeks/I felt my hair falling out/And I felt myself falling down
The potent sense of anxiety is felt throughout and perhaps that influence has some of the most stirring lyrics in the album where Boucher’s experiences are most tangibly felt. In “A Portrait Of” he sings:
I was thinking ’bout how great it would be if I could make the tightness in my chest go away.
Anyone who has ever dealt with anxiety understands that dreaded, lurking clamp around your chest that happens with any trigger, any misplaced thought or extreme circumstance and with a single line Boucher manages to capture it. Further in the number which is as poignant as anything on the album but nearly masked by the levity of the instruments he sings about dealing with depression, about dealing with all of the emotions and desperation that lead his friend to suicide. It builds and builds to a last chorus where he screams about how hard it is some days to “fucking stand” but he keeps going because he’s living as a “continuation” of those who fell victim to the fight.
Drop that phone drink a glass of water/And call me when you get in your bed/I’ve seen inside your head/And I’m doing the surgery on the parts/That still wish you were dead
The album deals with all forms of loss, be it in the camaraderie of a friend or the stability of youth and the loss of innocence but also in the notion of the loss of faith and how such senseless deaths can take that away from even the most devout. The song “Second Letter from St. Julien” deals with this head on with lyrics “You says there’s a God, you say you’ve got proof/ well I’ve lost friends to heroin so what’s your God trying to prove”. Beyond the poetic nature of the line the musicality of the song casts a clear distinction between the bands typical, raucous sounds and the self-meditative mood the album strikes, Add to that the rhythmically stark build up to the chorus where the vocals stay flat where you’d believe they’d swell and it’s one of the albums most intriguing numbers separated from the lyrics.
Refusing to sacrifice their sound for anything exploitative conceptual, the album bleeds in its conscious objective to see both the side of the victim of depression and those left behind. In “Where Are You?”, objectively the most uplifting and optimistic song on the album, there’s jaunty and energetic beat that pushes the song forward with lyrics such as “I’ve got friends who’ve died/But everything’s gonna be alright/They’ll be with me by my side every night” that play after “And it gets pretty cold when at twenty-three years old/ You’ve been running from death your whole life”. One verse is dealing with moving forward after loss and carrying the dead with you through better or worse while the latter deals with idea of how depression can be a lifelong disease.
There are no moments of rejoicing on the album, instead it’s a relentless endurance test to anyone who has dealt with the trauma of loss, especially at the hands of depression or the insidious nature of drug addiction. It’s also not an album that sinks into you on your first listen. Rather, it takes its time, slowly creeping up on you until the words float past the surface level of your psyche and into those moments where you’ve felt that anxiety, that level of unrest and overwhelming sense of inescapable loss. It’s the most mature album that band has ever done and some of it is due to what they dealt with, the pain and the fallout and all. Smartly they never glorify it, rather leaving the album open ended. One album isn’t going to solve everything but rather allow a catharsis of sorts where listeners alike can listen in and join the chorus of those we’ve lost, those who’ve survived and those who commit to spend their days continuing their lives as a need to reckon with the ones who took their own, living the days that were left behind by others.