Revisited: Transit’s Young New England
by Aaron Mook
Welcome to another brand new, original feature we at FKIS are calling ‘Revisited’. Here, we reconsider records previously dismissed by fans and critics alike with an open mind, and search for any redeeming qualities that may have been initially overlooked. Enjoy!
True, it’s been less than a year since Transit’s polarizing ‘Young New England’ has been released (eight months, to be exact); therefore, some may find it too soon to revisit (especially if they’re still overcoming Joe Boynton’s atrocious vocal melodies and the record’s near-unlistenable production). As one of my biggest disappointments of 2013, however, I found it my right- neigh, my duty- to look back on how the record plays as a whole, both on its own and as a follow-up to 2011’s landmark Listen & Forgive. Stricken with inspiration from reading the thread behind AbsolutePunk.net’s most popular review to date as well as compiling my EOTY lists, a piece of me still hopes Transit will surprise me. As one internet junkie pleaded with me earlier regarding Eminem’s latest steaming pile of “nostalgia” (also known as Marshall Mathers LP 2), “Hasn’t it happened to you that you enjoyed an album you didn’t like at first after giving it some time? Don’t you like bands now that you thought they were boring or bad some time ago?” Of course, he’s right…not about MMLP2, or proper grammar, but what he described has happened to all to us. As the clock strikes 1:23 AM, I can only hope Young New England becomes more respectable with time and a bit of Tylenol PM.
I’ll start with the positive: some of the songs here aren’t bad. In fact, some of the songs are very good, and would potentially become a redeeming point for the rest of the record if it didn’t sound like they recorded it inside of a trash can before waterlogging the final tapes. About half of Young New England shows an impressive nod at previously unheard 90’s influences, making this the kind of clunker found throughout many careers that could have been easily carved into an intriguing EP. The problem with each enjoyable piece of songwriting is how fast it can spin into something completely, sonically unsettling- tracks like “Sleep” and “Weathered Souls” are fundamentally sound, aside from individual aspects that completely wreck the song (the former’s ear-piercing bridge, the latter’s cringe-worthy singing throughout both verses). It’s moments like this that make you wonder how something so alarmingly below-average could make it past not only the band, but the producer as well.
“Second to Right”, “Don’t Go, Don’t Stray”, “Summer, ME” and “Lake Q” all show the band at their strongest, at least on this release; each reflecting on L&F territory while simultaneously expanding in new directions and unfamiliar pop sensibilities. Any of them would have made an acceptable single, but instead we were given the the awkward ‘wiggles-esque’ “Nothing Lasts Forever” and ill-fitting Blue October B-side of a title track (neither of which are necessarily as bad as the flack they’ve been given). Meanwhile, songs like “So Long, So Long” and “Thanks for Nothing” fall in the ‘passable, but boring’ category, and that’s where they stay. We’ve heard proof that Transit is more than capable of writing both inventive hooks and thought-provoking poetry, yet most of Young New England is swamped by half-baked ideas and lyrics mostly accessible to those who call Boston or New England their home. The drums are kept criminally low in the mix, to the point that I’m actually convinced this would be a better record were their volume placement switched with the vocals. As I stated earlier, the biggest issues that plague YNE are its vocals (seriously, somebody make a drinking game out of how many times Boynton sings a “woah-oh”) and production; look no further than “Hang It Up” and “Bright Lights, Dark Shadows”, respectively. The nasally delivery throughout “Hang It Up” makes it a song you need not squirm through more than once, while a combination of the two have Boynton passionately offering lines that sound uncannily like “Can you masturbate (mask the pain) if you don’t believe in it?” in the chorus of the latter.
Many will find this an unfair assessment- #GFYAM, may they tweet- but YNE finds itself wallowing in laziness and severe disappointment most after revisiting one of the best releases of 2011, Listen & Forgive. Gone is the melancholy, uncomfortable twist ending to anything semi-passable and in its place an impeccable combination of youthful pop-punk and structured indie music showing the upsetting and unkept promise of a band on fire. YNE has no “Long Lost Friends”, no “Skipping Stone”, no “1978”- not even an attempt at an “All of Your Heart”. I implore you, compare your least favorite take from L&F to even the best of YNE; the latter feels almost insulting in comparison. Unfortunately, the curious case of YNE boils down to a band preparing the album they needed, and not the album they deserved to make both for themselves and their fans. While signs of a new direction and unexplored influences show promise in the future of Transit, the bulk of the record is tossed together sloppily and spoon-fed to us like some sort of modern masterpiece, but unfortunately, there’s a difference between taking pride in your work and change always being a good thing. Who knows? Perhaps this is all being said too soon, and in 20 years I’ll be proven wrong about what could go down as a forefather of the 2033 ‘emo scene’. Unfortunately, if that’s the case, it’s a musical world I’d rather not be a part of.