In June, Noisey released an article saying that rock was dead and it’s been taken over by pop, EDM, and hip-hop. And that’s a great surface analysis of the commercial rock scene. But the best thing about the world’s best bands is that they belong to a genre that never really dies, it just hides out in a garage or on a rooftop somewhere waiting to be heard again. It’s a genre that thrives and feeds on the angst of rejection and calls home all those maligned by the current waste-of-a-zeitgeist that the commercial scene breeds.
It’s in those shadows, in the heart of Chicago, that Tougher Than You Thought have released a solid, pounding, polished EP that points to the future of music worth actually listening to again.
From the second the first cymbal crashes in Open Book, the EP starts with an honest admission of everything Tougher Than You Thought is—an open and honest exodus of the artists’ deepest fears, regrets, hopes, and dreams all laid out on the line for everyone to see in the most articulate, powerful way possible. The crushing fear of putting yourself out there, and the greater fear of no one even noticing. Opening fast and powerful, and begging for the chance to sell out to anyone and everyone that will listen–dreading being forgotten, and neurotically chronicling every part of your life to know you lived, Open Book is the theme song of an entire generation that doesn’t know if it ever has truly lived yet.
The second track on the EP is the previously reviewed Loss for Words. It’s been months since I first heard this song and even with the whole EP at my fingertips I STILL find myself putting this track on repeat because there’s an unyielding sweetness and honesty in the lyrics, and something equally rewarding in the riffs and beats I find myself having overlooked. The line “Dreaming of something happy, like your friendship and daytime napping, and when you held my hand” still gets me every time. It’s the story of that one shot in hell you have with a girl that for some reason you’re the only one that seems to notice is perfect. It is the absolute epitome of the genre. A song to make your summer brighter and keep you warm as winter creeps in, Loss for Words is a timeless masterpiece of a single.
Forever Never After — the next offering — flips the coin to the other perfect encapsulation of everything Blink brought to people when Tom DeLonge was at his finest. The heartache in the lyrics and the soul in the (oft-ignored in today’s music) guitar solo paint the beautifully bittersweet portrait of an ended relationship that somewhere went awry. Telling yourself over and over that you don’t miss someone, yet, oddly being able to remember in great detail everything you don’t miss. Receding into yourself, dreading phone calls and counting the seconds to get thorough the night. Aida’s voice is so impeccably on point for every piece of melancholy into overlaid, soaring choruses perfectly juxtaposing and dancing with each other.
Garden Snake lifts and crashes with a decidedly rock sound, a litany of literary references and almost Kenning-Style lyrics. Worth a listen for the counterpoint and colloquialisms alone, the wordplay is on point with and even at times superior to anything Fall Out Boy or Panic! ever put out. A sour and poignant breakup song defying the genre by refusing to stoop to the misogyny and low-blows so characteristic of the early pop-punk revenge anthems, Garden Snake solidifies Tougher Than You Thoughts’ place in the ranks of the future of music and plants the seed of hope in the ash of a musical style that was beloved but behind in so many ways.
The Band is Tougher Than You Thought, the EP is Check Please, and if you’re not listening to it right now you’re doing something wrong.