Like most things, this one was approached from a few different vantage points.
First, there was an attempt to connect it to the hit sitcom, Friends. Ross is a beautiful swirling mess, tied down by the battle between his natural nerdish instincts and an overwhelming desire to change everything. Terrible tales of unaired travesties and how they related to the audio presented. Somewhere around an effort to build a loose connection to Phoebe and the love ballad she penned for her deceased cat — it all felt incredibly pathetic and stupid.
Then there was a tale of the evolution of punk music from the perspective of someone who'd hardly lived through it, really only tipping his toes in occasionally over the past decade when "indie rock" became a tiresome cliche and those rap personalities began to shrink. There were sentences about an early exposure to the carefree 1990's power-pop-punk and how little of that was displayed here. And a whole paragraph about how Talons changed everything. Before diving head first into an abyss of debates — "what is punk?", "is Fat Mike still alive?" and "how the fuck did we get here?".
Things are rarely so simple.
Except, that same struggle for quantitative clarification forms as the origin of the record itself. This is an album defined but it's own natural detachment from definition. It's a war between benumbed structural organisation and complete emotive chaos. A fight pitting brutal heart-powered honesty against unattached ambiguity. Small town kings comforted by an associated scene arguing against positions of greater significance. Naked and colourful pop moments expand the spaces only to be swallowed up by filthy, swamp-dwelling darkness. But this is more than just a facile battle of dualism. This is a series of unplanned and completely unorganised conflicts, created not with the simple purpose of falsely elevating the significance of each side, but rather calculating it's own destination upon the results of these verdicts as the linear operations unravel.
This natural sense of discovery is extracted directly from the band's live show — an experience in itself.
Rarely situated anywhere but the middle of the room, the audio consumption is the initial difference — coming at you from all sides, rather than the usual face-first custom. The crowd, often with the usual sense of social reluctance, gradually engage as the songs begin to take shape. People eventually move in, slowly swarming around the band like a pre-game motivational group hug, becoming increasingly hypnotised by what's created within the enclosure. All warm and together and part of something bigger and more significant, we feel we're watching it resolve it's course for the very first time. The whole thing leaves a lasting impression, instantly forcing you to swear off attending musical performances that don't involve such engaging rituals.
Friends does an amazing job at encapsulating this experience. The production utilises that same double-echo distance, the key element that creates the complete four-wall-stereo engulfment of their live show. Yet, it also defines its limits, rarely falsifying any aspect that doesn't sound purely live — only further empowering this record's enjoyable sense of purity. Not a one-take-wonder, subservient to an as-it-comes spontaneity, but guided by momentum rather than purpose.
It's this sense of impulsive and boundless approach that operates as the record's principle drawcard, and yet also makes it something incredibly difficult to describe in measurable values. So, just take that numerical attribute above as it is. That space between it and a score reflecting complete perfection is only because I've been reliably informed that the band are "currently working on stuff that it's even better the album". Something that's hard to imagine and, most likely, even harder to examine.