They Liked You Better When You Were Dead

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Four-piece rock outfit Fightstar successfully occupy the middle section of an old-school/new-school Venn diagram with their 2006 release, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead. At a time when post-hardcore's torch seems to have been almost completely passed to succeeding generations of screamo bands, the London natives stand firmly enough on the mother country of their genre to do well by the legacy of groups like Fugazi and Helmet. Vocalists Al Westaway and Charlie Simpson do seem to have taken a cue from the influx of later emo bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance, but for the most part they utilize a distinct sound that more selectively reaches total catharsis. The two share a fantastic vocal range, adding emotional complexity and balance through their arrangements. "Mono" is an obvious example of this versatility. The first half of the six-minute epic features earnest, melodic intonations and tender, ethereal falsetto; the second half finds the singers keening, rasping, and screaming -- all without abandoning their sense of musicality, which is more than can be said for many screamo vocalists. Train-like guitar work also adds strength to the record, creating drama and tension in the key moments at which it lets up. The driving force behind most of the songs, however, is the rhythm section. The tight basslines and tighter drumming on They Liked You Better are what lead each track through its arc, shirking convention when things start to get clich├ęd.

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