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01. Letter Thing
02. Breathing's For The Birds
04. The Notches That Create Your Headboard
05. Pleading Post
06. Slow Good Morning
07. Prematurito El Baby
08. Composer Meet Corpse
09. You Will Not Be Welcomed
10. Naive Monarch
12. The First Day Of My Second Life
Reviewed by: Cory
// Published: 4/24/2007
When the floodgates really opened for metalcore almost a decade ago, Poison The Well was one of the most prominent acts in the genre's new wave. Their sizable fan base and general success caught the eye of Atlantic Records, who released their last album, You Come Before You. Despite selling over a hundred thousand copies, that album was regarded as a commercial flop. Fast forward almost four years and Poison The Well have parted ways with Atlantic, found a home at Ferret and released Versions, their fourth full-length album. Gone forever are the pseudo-metal riffs and drumming of the first few records, replaced by more deliberately paced rock inspired by the likes of the Deftones, Converge and even a bit of Murder City Devils.
I suppose it's not particularly surprising that Poison The Well have shifted direction over the years. Even what could arguably be called their finest moment, The Opposite of December, synthesized what many bands had done before into something marketable. I'm not even sure if a band that has seen this many member changes (twenty-three members in nine years) could be expected to maintain anything besides their bankable name. With Versions, Poison The Well borrows most of their tricks from some of the most innovative acts of the last ten years and rolls them into one big, poorly-arranged mess of impersonal style and shitty lyrics. If you're the type to ooh and aah at tambourines, horns and slide guitar in neo-hardcore songs, you're probably already eating thisup.
The disc opens with perhaps its most blatant rip-off, "Letter Thing." I'm not really exaggerating when I say that this song is basically a faster, less interesting cover of Converge's "Last Light." If you traded in that tracks' impressive drumming for a more basic beat, a tambourine and some Mike Ski-style shouts about "sunshine," you would end up with this disc's opening track. In fact, most of the disc's heavier moments are equally inspired by You Fail Me, while its softer side features melodies that, while not entirely unpleasant, ultimately go nowhere. "Breathing's For The Birds" prominently features lots of simplistic riffing and tambourine shaking beneath its forgettable melody. "Nagaina" gets a special award for featuring the disc's absolute worst lyric, "I am a snake, I let my children go to fend for themselves." It might not seem that bad in theory, but when delivered in Jeffrey Moreira's best Daniel Johns impression, it lacks any and all emotional weight. Once "Prematurio El Baby" steals its entire concept from Cursive's Happy Hollow, I pretty much gave up all hope of this record going anywhere good.
The reason so many people seem to have connected with the band's past work is the raw emotion they've always been able to capture, not necessarily the band's originality. That's where Poison The Well has truly failed with Versions. As corny as "Nerdy" might have been in retrospect, there was something to those words that many fans genuinely connected with. Versions is forty-two minutes of sterile songwriting hiding just beneath a slightly raw veneer, provided by the producers behind Refused's "The Shape of Punk to Come." Are these the worst songs I've ever heard in my life Not by a longshot. Most casual listeners could probably enjoy certain aspects of Versions. Every so often, it is interesting to hear a horn or a country-style guitar line pop up in one of these songs. My personal disappointment in this album has more to do with the band's insistence that recycling someone else's ideas with half-assed arrangements is somehow worthy of anyone's record-buying dollar. These aren't naïve youngsters who don't know any better. These are grown men leaning on a well-established name to pass off a subpar record onto unsuspecting fans.
Bottom Line: Poison The Well has never been one of my favorite bands, but they have always been able to create respectable, contemporary records that gave the audience something to connect with. Versions lacks the songwriting skill exhibited on the band's last full-length and the emotion captured on the band's early releases. What's left without these past strengths is a record so falsely sure of its own creativity that it shines an unforgiving light on its near complete lack thereof. Versions isn't a completely worthless venture, it's just devoid of any genuine emotion or effort.
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