Label: Ruined Smile Records
Moral Straightjacket seem to be the kind of band full of knowing winks and nods, and even if there’s hints that the duo don’t take themselves too seriously, it doesn’t mean that their music isn’t worth paying attention to. After all, how many emo bands would describe themselves as playing “moralviolence”, as they do on their Facebook page? What they offer up on Into The Light is emo of the early-90s variety – think Hoover and Moss Icon – with a musical heft equal to the emotional power it possesses. Which, as you would hope, is quite considerable. As far as “a testament and revelation to poor life choices” goes, you can’t hope for much better. But nor can you expect to hear a band these days reaching heights comparable to those leading lights of days gone by, but that is exactly what Moral Straightjacket do.
Originally recorded in 2014, Into The Light is getting a new lease of life thanks to a cassette release from Ruined Smile Records, and deservedly so; these songs don’t deserve to fade in to obscurity. Whilst their previous tape reminded me a lot of End Of A Year / Self Defense Family – a comparison that still holds weight – Into The Light has a much stronger sense of character and individuality. Sure, the band’s influences are clear (which is no crime), but the music they present, and the way they build upon what has gone before, feels more natural and honest, packed full of the kind of raw emotions that make this genre so great. The vocals and lyrics, in particular, are so incredibly raw and open that it comes across as if they were written and recorded straight after some significant life event, with emotions and heads in a spin, capturing on tape those moments when nothing makes sense and everything feels wrong, but still you keep on fighting. As that should imply, it’s not really a record suited for playing with your buddies, but then, was End On End, or anything by Indian Summer? It’s introverted, contemplative, cathartic music – everything you’d hope for from underground emo, really.
That’s not to say it’s an abrasive or aggressive record. There’s a lot of melody in the riffs and guitar lines, married with a real feeling of power and emotion. “Happiness” in particular is built upon a repetitive, very catchy central riff that has clear 80s post-punk nods, and I’m a big fan of the melodic lines during the verses of opener “BT Shunt” that contrast well with the more restrained rhythm section. Much like the classics of the genre, the music is full of (often melancholic) melody, hitting the right balance between being hard-hitting and catchy. “Fontan I & II” is a great example of the heavier end of Moral Straightjacket’s repertoire, with the central bass-heavy riff bringing Shotmaker’s Mouse Ear (Forget-Me-Not) to mind (an influence I wish I heard more of in punk rock in general). And at 20 minutes long, these five songs don’t overstay their welcome, being just the right length to achieve catharsis whilst still leaving the listener wanting that bit more. Hopefully, that will come soon, as the band are working on new songs. I can’t wait to hear them, as I’ve heard few bands explore this kind of emo so well since the genre’s heyday.