Album Review :: Useless ID :: Symptoms

Symptoms is the seventh album from Israeli punk rock band Useless ID. My first thought as I was listening to the album was, “Seventh album? Where the hell have I been?” The answer was obviously, “Living under a rock somewhere”. For those of you who have also been in the dark, Useless ID hails from Haifa Israel and has been recording since 1994. Their first releases were put out on their own Falafel Records but their break came in 2001 when they released a split with The Ataris on Kung Fu Records. Their relationship with Kung Fu continued for five more years and three more albums and they have toured with the likes of NOFX, The Vandals, and No Use For a Name.

This album was recorded in the States at Blasting Room Studios with producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore. Stevenson was so impressed with the recording he personally urged Fat Mike to release it through Fat  Wreck Chords. Good thing for us that Fat Mike listened, because this record is killer.

Symptoms is a timeless melodic punk record, no frills, no gimmicks just quality music. From start to finish the music is solid, the vocals are strong, and the attitude never wavers. Symptoms starts off strong and there is never a drop in intensity throughout the record, even in the tracks that are a bit quieter and slower. These fluctuations move you through the album until you reach the final track and you feel as though you were taken on a journey of sorts.

My pick for best track in the album is, track one Live or Die. Live or Die kicks off the album with strength, attitude, and melody. You are grabbed immediately by the great staccato cadence of the verses and the melodic chorus. The vocals have an intoxicating inflection with an edge and the use of the long “i” sounds throughout the song carries us deeper into each line as they build on one another. The unexpected screamo section at the end of the track is an awesome surprise.

The runner up favorite track, Waiting For An Accident is a more mellow track that is full of layers of music, vocals, and inflections. The play between these elements create a distinct feeling to the track that is not heard anywhere else on the album.

What makes this album unique is that Useless ID lets their non-punk influences merge with their punk sensibilities. Track two, Before It Kills is a fast energetic track that will get a pit dancing. The play between the guitar and drums throughout Suffering With You makes it one of the most rock and roll tracks on the album and it is perfectly punctuated with a break down at the end to give it a slightly haunting quality.Symptoms has a new wave undertone and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder has a 90s alternative rock influence. Somewhere, the final track is soft, poignant, and provides a period to the record.

Okay, now here is where I am totally going to geek out from another part of my life. (Rumor has it that I have multiple degrees in poetry.) After the initial play through of the record, I started to notice patterns of sound and rhyme that made me take close note of the lyrics.

There is a great command of language and its sonic possibilities throughout the entire album. The use of rhyme in each track on Symptoms is natural and fresh. None of the tracks have a rhyme scheme but they to use internal rhyme is to build the intensity of a single line, the rhyme is often carried over to the next line to make it catchy as hell. A few excellent examples of this is in Live or Die, “In the right time for a lifetime, but it gets lonely in the night time” and “Send her and I’ll surrender / Execute me with a romance. / I’m a bleeder. I’ll believe her when she takes me for the winter.”

In addition to end rhyme (which is the rhyme that we are all most familiar with) and internal rhyme, Useless ID employs sight rhyme, slant rhyme, assonance, and consonance, which we don’t always catch as we are listening, but it resonates in our subconscious as something pleasing. The varied line lengths and line breaks create surprises for the listener as the repetition of sounds provides a thread for us to follow. These techniques keep the listener engaged and but it also adds a level of complexity to the rhymes that appear throughout.

Whether you are a fan of the band, of melodic punk, or simply a well written song, you have no excuse not to check these guys out. Pick up Symptoms out now on Fat Wreck Chords and also head over to AP.com to watch their video for Before It Kills.

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