Athens, Georgia emo trio Five Eight returns with a new album that displays the hard driving, frenetic and quirkily melodic sound that has made them a popular live act for the last fifteen years. It’s easy to see why the other, more famous Athens band, REM, picked these guys to open a few dates on their fall tour.
Lead singer, guitarist and songwriter Mike Mantione crafts expressive, affecting lyrics, which deal with unusual scenarios and viewpoints. Opener “Criminal” details the guilt of someone who has killed his best friend in a car accident. “Guitar” is told from the perspective of the titular instrument. “Now you have thrown me down in anger,” Mantione sings. “And you have chipped away the lacquer / Jump in front of all the kids / And smash me into little bits / I dare you.”
On “Square Peg,” Mantione laments a lifetime of being told he’d never fit in. And on “A Man Is A Pent Up Thing,” he offers these lines: “When I write the greatest song / Well you know I still won’t belong.”
Bassist Dan Horowitz and drummer Mike Rizzi help nail the hairpin turns of the songs. “Magnetic Fields” (which has nothing to do with Stephen Merritt’s band) features a Brian May-like guitar solo and an unexpectedly hard-rocking coda. The acoustic-based “Bad Juices” (about Mantione’s divorce) has plenty of interesting melodic twists and some nice harmonies. The guitar interplay on “Do It Anyway” also impresses. And “I’m Still Around” has a killer hook.
It all adds up to as inventive and exciting an album as you’re likely to hear this year, and one of the best of Five Eight’s career.
Five Eight: www.fiveeight.com