One If By Land - In the Fire of My Youth
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: June 13, 2013
How do I describe to you the debut album from Meadville, PA punk-rockers One If By Land? Better yet- how do I describe the themes contained in records like In the Fire of My Youth? It’s a release for anyone fighting to do the things they love; perhaps you have a family now, or your 9 to 5 is getting in the way. Maybe you’re feeling less aggression towards a world that accepted you as you grew older, or maybe you’re more pissed off than ever. Lastly, you could just be a teenager flipping through his parents’/siblings’/friends’ records and discovering the liberation that is rock and/or roll.
If any of the above describes you to the slightest, One If By Land are the band for you. Vocalist Fred Oakman’s signature wail of “You drove yourself straight in the ground/and I for one am older now/I can’t believe we made it after all” forces a refreshing breath of air in your lungs before crashing guitars introduce cathartic opener, “Yesterburner”. It’s a proper introduction, seeing as the rest of the album follows in a similar vein and successfully channels their influences (The Get Up Kids in “Nothing On Us” or the Hot Water Music-worshipping “Long Time Coming”) while simultaneously expanding and making a name for themselves in a genre that was in dire need of a kickstart.
The record is somewhat split into two halves, the first reeling against the loss of youth before more efficiently finding a way to cope with that loss. Middle class anthem “Handouts” starts with well-placed organ, before Oakman chimes in “Breaking my back to no avail/it’s like trying to to get through hell/live cheap, still got unpaid bills/it’s never ending, God, it’s never ending”. “Airtight” follows in the same suit, featuring sorrowful gang vocals and a chorus that acts as “a constant reminder, you’ve only got me 9 to 5″. It’s towards the album’s middle and end that we truly get a sense for the underlying emotions that led to In the Fire of My Youth, and oddly enough, both instances occur in pairs. First, “In the Shade” and “Do I” both utilize darker and more frustrated tones, chock-full of post-hardcore sensibilities and displaying One if By Land at their heaviest. Meanwhile, the chorus of each manage to remain upbeat and brimming with hope. The bridge of “Do I” in particular is successful in showing just how diverse the band can be, but if there’s one thing One If By Land does to send this record home, it’s saving the best for last in the form of “Winded” and “The Things I Love” (not to mention their gorgeous acoustic reprises). Together, it’s eight toe-tapping minutes in which we hear the band having more fun than ever, so much so that you can hardly help but grin and nod along. Lyrically, I feel as though I should at least one thing a surprise for our listeners, so keep your ears peeled throughout the closer for some of the finest words Oakman has penned to date.
From the often ‘emotion over key’ vocals to the slightly formulaic songwriting style, In the Fire of My Youth is far from perfect, but the fact that it doesn’t need to be may be one of its greatest strengths. One If By Land have almost perfectly encapsulated the loss of youth and working-class anxieties we all come to discover at one point or another. In the Fire of My Youth will make you want to laugh, cry and dance those feelings away, because for 12 tracks and 46 minutes, if just that, there are at least four others in this world who know exactly what you’re going through.