Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2011 in review - album of the year

TODAY IS THE DAY Pain Is A Warning

This should come as no surprise. Most of you that know me or comment on The long way home.'s facebook or my own have already guessed it, in fact. My admiration for Steve Austin and Today Is The Day has been obvious for years, and this year it went into total overdrive. You might have watched me going berserk up front if you were at SWR or Roadburn when they played two earth-shaking concerts like a band approaching the apocalypse (it should be said at this point that, despite the illustrious people who have passed through Today Is The Day's line-up, this is the most solid and crushing formation the band has ever had - hats duly tipped, Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Jones), two performances which prompted me to write a super excited band of the week post even before I had heard the album. Then, when I finally got 'Pain Is A Warning', it annihilated anything else I might have listened to for a month or so. At home, in the car or on my portable music player, nothing else was allowed. I was lucky enough to be the one to review it when it was awarded album of the month on Terrorizer, already proclaiming it album of the year in August. Recently I've lavished yet more praise on it on a radio show in which I guested, poisoning the minds of more youth with the malicious seed of Steve Austin. I've become so associated with this record that JGD even mentioned me when he talked about it on The Living Doorway's list. Several months and several hundred plays later, and the fascination hasn't diminished - it's playing right now as I type this (it's on 'Remember To Forget', to be precise) and I'm still stopping my writing often just to appreciate it properly during the most affecting bits. Why?

 I've said it before, and it seems to become more relevant as time goes by, as new and recycled musical genres appear, disappear and reappear, as music itself and the way we approach and listen to it changes: never underestimate the power of a great song. Regardless of its simplicity (or complexity), a great song is universal. It stays within the listener, it's owned and becomes part of him as it's reinterpreted through his own experience and his own set of world-perceiving lenses. What constitutes a great song might be subjective - it's not just catchiness, or lasting power, or technical ability, or a great sound (although the Kurt Ballou work on this should be praised greatly), or a great voice, or a great story. It's a combination of everything with an extra little magic dust, but you know it when you hear it, and it stays with you. You'll always recognize it and stop what you're doing when you hear it somewhere. That's what 'Pain Is A Warning' is. All the way through. It happens nine times when you play it. It's a collection of nine great songs, stripped of everything that isn't the absolute essential and structured and alligned in such a way that the sum of which is even greater than their individual brilliance.

I don't think anyone realistically expects anything specific for each Today Is The Day release, so this has to be classified as a surprise. But if you look at the past discography - and listen to it, regularly - it makes perfect sense. It's like those ads, what to give the man who has everything?, what could Steve Austin do with Today Is The Day that he hadn't done before, and better than anyone else? Only this. Only this and nothing more. Strip down the chaos, the pain, the rage, the fire, bare them out in the open for all to see. If all it takes for a song to reach through to someone is beating on the same riff for three minutes, then so be it. If your message is such that you just have to sing low and quiet to express it, then so be it. No artistry, no witchery, no pretend, no posturing, no faking. Just truth. That's Today Is The Day.


  1. Pretty pissed it wasn't the new Dream Theater.

    Oh well, maybe next year.

  2. Amazing job on this list, dude. It's an undertaking I'll never have the time, patience, or words for, so I salute you, sir.

    annnnnd lol @ Dream Theatre.

  3. Your relentless and constantly entertaining posting on TLD all year long far exceeds the time, patience and words I need for this little week every year, dude. So consider yourself saluted tenfold right back.

  4. You guys both rock the music blogging world!

    I was kidding with the DT remark, Jaime. ;-)