State Lines - For the Boats
Release Date: April 30, 2013
Record Label: Tiny Engines
Comedian Bo Burnham has a song mocking modern-day pop music where the lyrics are as vague as possible so they can include nearly all teenage girls. Broader lyricism can of course be good, it’s much easier to reach a wide audience and it’s easy to see why songwriters would do it but all too often it doesn’t come off as something that the writer genuinely wanted or needed to say. In For the Boats, the second LP by Long Island indie-punk band State Lines, every word feels necessary.
“It’s nothing commercial, nothing political, barely contrived. No it’s me telling some kid through a microphone, he might be fucked in the head but he’s not alone.”
Lead singer/songwriter, Jonathan DiMitri has a unique way of making even incredibly personal situations relatable. Another common trope in song writing is lacking a sense of context, writing songs that are addressed to someone that only that person and the writer would understand to make songs feel more personal. Lyricists seem to forget that sometimes listeners have no idea what musicians are talking about and we do want some more insight. That’s why Spotify commentaries, RapGenius and other similar services that provide further explanation of the lyrics are so incredibly popular.
While, yes most of these songs feel like they could be addressed to someone specific; they never exclude listeners instead painting vivid pictures whether it’s describing holding wrists so tight, it looks like an ‘Indian burn’ or singing for the boats or going sketchy bars in sketchy cars. All of the emotions become fleshed out and easier to empathize with when you feel like you’re right there at the scene. Everything becomes that much more real.
When J.D. sings in an instantly recognizable broken snarl about being in a band in “Garages”, you may not relate to the specifics but when he says something like “Just trying to leave a mark” you’re able to actually get a sense of where he’s coming from. He effortlessly lets you see the world through his eyes and every once in a while you’ll connect to a line in the most satisfying way possible. The type of connection that’s made when you’re speaking to a friend on a late night and they say something that makes you think “shit, I thought that was just me.” And that’s the tiny line that divides your best friend from a good friend, the same line that divides your favorite band from every other band.
Of course none of this would matter if it sounded like shit but State Lines has gained a considerable of ground on the musical forefront creating an extremely varied piece of work, sonically. While their debut album, Hoffman Manor, seemed firmly planted in familiar sounds; For the Boats sounds like the record they were hinting at. This band no longer wears their influences on the sleeve, they sound like themselves. People are going to compare them to Tigers Jaw or something because they both sound “raw” because that’s what people do but no one out there is going to mistake a song off this record for anything except State Lines.
Their newfound confidence shines through and it sounds fantastic. Experiments are a-heavy on this album as the band seems to take a new approach to songwriting on every track. At first the flow of the album suffers because of this however once you know what to expect next, it starts to make some weird kind of sense and just becomes a part of this album's bizarre charm. Their most out-there experiment comes in the form of “Shady Existence” starting with a guest rap verse from Jovi. (This is a punk band; they’re not supposed to do that.) Melodies, tempo changes, and tightly organized yet chaotic instrumentation at this level are something that this band didn’t seem to be capable or confident enough to do just two years ago.
Perhaps the best example of their growth is “Shit for Brains” directly at the midpoint of the record starting with absolutely thrashing guitars and pounding drums fighting to be heard before shifting into a slower tempo with brief rests then going right back to the breathless pace. Everyone here just sounds better from Johnny Wims’ buzzing and deliberate bass to Tom Werring’s intensely rattling guitars and wonderful backing harmonies to J.D.’s vocals that go from complete howls to delicate croons to Werring and J.D. alternating on the pulsating drums. With an album this diverse, the chemistry between Wims, Werring and J.D. becomes discernibly at a level that is sometimes not even present in older bands due to the revolving door of members.
I didn’t really want to write this review, Hoffman Manor was a record that was so significant to me that I thought sharing my views would come off as way too touchy-feely hyperbole-ish something. I thought readers would probably suspect that the drummer is my dad. But shit, man if I didn’t write this review who would? If State Lines didn’t write For The Boats, who would?
QUICK! Someone call the police!! An entire genre has been murdered here today!!! Yes, after Hoffman BADnor I said nothing could ever in the history of music possibly be worse......and yet here I am today admitting where I was wrong. Dont get me wrong, Hoffman BADnor was absolutely disgraceful but it doesn't even come close to the downright disgusting and shameful BORE the Boats. And I stress the bore. Where to begin with this monstrosity? Well it opens up with despised singer (and suspected communist) Johnathan Dimitri (or again as I like to call him, DIMWITitri) going back to where he left of with a lot of whining and bitching about something. He opens up complaining about some fresh frat kids. What's the matter Dimwit? Not cool enough to join a frat? I bet you don't own even one pair of boat shoes. It only gets worse from there. This album is 32 minutes of SUCK. The only thing worse than Dimwits singing is the background singing that I can only compare to a kindergardener with bronchitis. And the instruments? nothing but senseless noise. It's appropriate that there is a track called The Same Mistake because that is exactly what this album is, the same mistake.......but worse!! I would say that at least this album will never be popular, but as you can see by the obvious satanic album cover, State Lines has officially joined the Illuminati. I weep for your unborn children. It's a sad day, but don't worry, I will be here to stop them. This is Hate Lines saying........Fuck State lines
PS: The one gem hidden in this pile of shit album is the straight FUEGO verse from Jovi. Let me tell you, that kids lyricism and flow is like my little sister before her 8th birthday; Tight