In a forward to Leslie Simon & Trevor Kelly’s satirical take on 2000’s mall-punk, Everybody Hurts: An Essential Guide to Emo Culture, Andy Greenwald evokes the ways The Promise Ring acted as his dip-of-the-toe into the genre of emo. Used to the post-grunge scene of the late 90’s, Greenwald saw emo as entirely void of “escapism”, writing, “to be emo is to tap into something sweetly innocent… a nostalgia for things that haven’t happened yet, or an ache for things that barely were”. Like many of their labelmates on Run For Cover Records, post-everything UK act Basement utilizes this nostalgia heavily within their sound, and although drawing from a larger spectrum of rock influences, the band is considered a heavy-hitter in the current emo-revival scene.
On their previous two full-lengths, I Wish I Could Stay Here & Colourmeinkindness, Basement found a pretty refreshing balance between fuzzed out, Nirvana-derivative riffs and the melodic tendencies of Drive-Thru-era emo, which made for some pretty original songwriting. It’s clear the band’s strength lies in their ability to reshape tones and dynamics of earlier bands that thrived in the post-hardcore scene, repackaged cleanly with relevance to a younger audience. The biggest problem is the most glaringly obvious: by their third full length, Basement have exhausted their well of influence. They’ve delivered a record saturated in the styles of both old Basement material and that of the bands they’re so closely imitating.
From the first riff on album opener “Brother’s Keeper”, it becomes clear that Promise Everything is but a firm continuation for Basement, both instrumentally and thematically. The band could have used this third release to springboard and explore ideas that venture deep into all that rock sensibilities encompass. Much like The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid to Die did last year, Basement could have taken their cleanly troubled approach to rock and combined it with something a little more unexpected, like post-rock or noise rock. But alas, the band seems comfortable exuding more and more of their signature mid-tempo, background rock anthems.
Despite being one of the album’s stronger cuts, “Brother’s Keeper” falls victim to the calamitous disease that shrewdly hides within Promise Everything. Every track on the album is cut short in terms of quality as a result of Basement’s unapologetic adornment of influence. With its subdued texture, sharp bassline, and infectious chorus, “Brother’s Keeper” plays like Nevermind sung by a wider-ranged vocalist. The harmonics introducing “Aquasun” recalls the guitar work of mid-90’s Foo Fighters. The way the vocalization plays off the simplistic chugs of the guitar on “Blinded Bye” feels like a B-side Dookie recording.
These are not bad songs by any means. Basement’s blend of heavier tones with comparatively airy choruses makes for a satisfying listen, but without momentum or growth, it feels purposeless. By their third-full length, there’s an expectation for sonic expansion, the kind Title Fight and Turnover did so effortlessly on Hyperview and Peripheral Vision last year, respectively. Instead, Promise Everything remains inherently safe, tiringly bland, and disappointingly unmemorable.
Despite Promise Everything being too entrenched in the idiosyncrasies of twenty years ago, it’s not all bad. “Oversized” starts with a riff ripped straight from Siamese Dream, toying with an atmospheric simplicity in its chorus that breaks up the monotony of the record’s latter half. “Submission” is the closest regurgitation to the distinctive punches of Colourmeinkindness. Fine details aside, Promise Everything proves divisive for Basement and their revivalist peers, marking the point where reimagining the 90’s no longer feels fresh. Like the bastardization of emo a decade earlier, emo-revival will eventually hit a ceiling and break, leaving Basement to either soar towards success, or end up as relevant as the Vans Warped Tour or Ozzfest. Only time, and its now nauseating regurgitation, will tell.
– Andre I.