Versus the World
Tracklist1. Lonely Road to Absolution
2. Viking Death March
3. Surprise Surprise
4. Runnin' Across the Tracks
5. Love Was Still Around
6. Stand Up and Run
7. Crooked Minds
8. Man Alive!
9. Hanging by a Thread
10. Cure for the Enemy
11. Don't Count on the Wicked
12. Show Me the Way
13. Swallowed Up by the Ocean
14. Dead Silence
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I hate to speak in clichés, but there is a significant difference between growing up and maturing. Just ask any former fan of Green Day. Maybe it is simply because I’m at the right age, but I find it easy to tell the distinction. No band better exemplifies how to mature better than Canada’s Billy Talent.
The band has always been well known as a competent but exceptionally quirky punk group. In that regard, the band mirrored a socially awkward nerd. As a youngster, Billy was loud, angry, and cared a lot about morality and current events. Billy wanted people to “Try Honesty” and spoke out against societal ills like child abuse (“Devil in a Midnight Mass”) and occasionally about that girl (“Surrender”). He also really loved nasally singing and borderline atonal background vocals, but that is a part of finding out who you are. Billy clearly had some talent, but he needed to find a way to unite it with solid songwriting.
The moment of growth has come to fruition with Dead Silence, which features nearly fifty-four minutes of solid noise. The album finds a grown-up and matured Billy, but irony and bad songwriting is mostly left by the wayside. Instead, this is the most polished and political Billy Talent has ever sounded. The band’s mixture of pop-punk, post-hardcore, and classic rock is more potent than it has ever been.
The opener “Viking Death March” serves as a welcome introduction to the festivities, as it sounds like the song Green Day has been trying to write for the past ten years. What sets the band apart from a million political-leaning punk groups is that Billy Talent actually has something to say. “Surprise Surprise” is (surprise!) one of the more clever ways to poke fun at the hipster “revolution.” “Crooked Minds” poignantly plummets through the filth of society, amidst an incredibly catchy riff and hook. Like the rest of the album, it feels like vintage Billy Talent, except better.
The problem with maturing is that it means you have reached your potential; it does not mean you are perfect. Billy Talent still has a maddening penchant for very repetitious hooks. Granted, those choruses are usually quite catchy in their own right, but there are times that the repetition bogs down what would otherwise be a stellar song. The other issue is basically nitpicking, but it is important to mention. While the overall product is the best album Billy Talent has produced, there are no individual songs that are quite as initially awesome as “Try Honesty” or “Devil in a Midnight Mass.” Instead, each song exhibits the type of careful songwriting where songs slowly weave their way into your cranium. This is the sound of a bunch of mature punks, and surprise, surprise: it’s really good.