Perfect LP: Every Time I Die

featured / News / Perfect LP / Special Features / April 13, 2017

Perfect LP is a feature in which the Modern Vinyl writers take on the tall task of summarizing an artist or band’s career in an LP sized selection of tracks. Bypassing what was the single, what was the “hit” and what fans call for throughout shows, it’s time to decide what makes up the Perfect LP.

The Rules

The selections will total no more than 50 minutes. The selections are arranged in logical fashion, as in how you’d like to hear them in a real tracklisting.

The Subject

Every Time I Die. A few years shy of hitting their 20-year career mark, the Buffalo quintet has put out eight full-length records. And with each full-length arguably better than the last, albeit in different ways, there should be a place in punk, hardcore history for them, if they ever decide to call it quits that is. While there are plenty of older fans who scream that 2003’s Hot Damn! was their peak, the band has only continued to grow and expand their songwriting ability. Commercially, they’ve been relevant for every new wave of fans; their live shows becoming a melting pot of age groups having fun and screaming along. Currently riding the reigns of their latest firebreather, Low Teens, Every Time I Die continues to pack their schedule with non-stop tours.

A Perfect LP should capture this career, along with highlighting the band’s amorphous sonic palette and their ability to keep things fun without ever having to be overly serious.

The Tracks

The Explanation

The band has released eight solid albums, each with their own atmosphere, thus making the selection process a bit more difficult as songs from 2005’s Gutter Phenomenon sound extremely different, in terms of mixing and pace, than tracks on 2014’s From Parts Unknown, for example. And given they still tour nine months out of the year, this Perfect LP tries very hard to keep in mind that if they stepped up on stage and played these songs, fans would be happy and blown away by the sequencing. This also meant trying to manage how songs flowed into each other, another challenge.

With these particular ideas in mind, let’s talk about lyrics. Keith Buckley is an incredibly tongue-in-cheek, yet emotion-laden lyricist. These selections try to uncover some kind of story or pattern to Buckley’s reference-heavy wordplay. The major themes showcased below wrestle with love and heartache, while also poking fun at the industry with some good ol’ fashioned partying.

To the musical side: Every Time I Die have had plenty of incredible compositions over the years.  There are crashes, for example, on 2007’s The Big Dirty that detonate harder than most of 2003’s Hot Damn! — despite shakeups in the lineup. Right now, I think EITD is in their best iteration yet, but I found it important to highlight the band’s commitment to post-hardcore energy and vitality.

The Selections

“Floater” (from Hot Damn!, 2003)

What better way to start off than with the band’s heaviest hitting song? This is arguably one of the most well-known tracks from the Buffalo quintet, making an appearance at virtually every live show. And lyrically, this should be a great way to introduce people to Buckley. The song, an extended metaphor, deals with a man falling in love with a body of water in a deathly manner. It starts with a man saying farewell to a bridge, diving through regrets, arguing to just be drowned at birth so he doesn’t grow up and lose his dreams. Buckley counters though, stating, “drag the lake, you’ll find it’s full of love.” Full of beauty, it hits hard, showcasing the fury of the band’s writing style and offering a bit of insight into Buckley’s intellect (and one of his major lyrical focuses: love).

“Champing At The Bit” (from Gutter Phenomenon, 2005)

Here’s one that should be more well-known amongst fans. Serving as a love letter between Keith and the gracious love of his life (to whom he’s married and has been with since he and his wife were teens), it asks you to imagine finally being with the person you want to be with. Now imagine what you would do to protect them. Musically, this song is simple and sweet, having a similar pace as “Floater,” with slamming riffs and a fantastic whirlwind in the middle. Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw sings the finale here, while the package should go down in history as one of the best Every Time I Die songs ever.

“Petal” (from Low Teens, 2016)

Let’s imagine again what’d you do to protect your love. “Petal” is a gut-wrenching cry of what happens when life decides to take that love and innocence away from you. There are two distinctive rhetorical questions being asked by Buckley here: “Why me?” and “What the fuck did I do wrong/right?” His visceral howls of anguish between the lyrics — “I better warm up my gun in case love is not enough,” and “If I have to walk alone I’m giving up/I can’t stay here knowing love is not enough” — works thematically with the previous songs of this sequence. The music features simpler patterns rotating around each other, but what’s great about “Petal,” and much of Low Teens, is the bombastic drumming from Daniel Davison. The ending howls, crushing guitar and bassline, and a flurry of percussion at the song’s close is a career highlight, as well.

“Buffalo 666” (from New Junk Aesthetic, 2009)

Continuing with the theme of love, oddly enough “Buffalo 666” fits right in. It’s heavily influenced by the movie Buffalo 66 and depicts a guy fresh out of jail who kidnaps a girl, who then soon develops Stockholm syndrome. The song’s pace is aptly cinematic, with a blistering breakdown and a cycling riff that returns later in this Perfect LP.

“I Suck (Blood)” (from Ex Lives, 2012)

The faster tempos remain alive on this track, pounding listeners’ ears with syncopated rhythms and darker themes. Keith is screaming through the pummeling madness; one can hear his breaths seeping through the mix, as if he’s suffocating. The track’s lyrics, with Buckley testifying he’d “rather be a jealous man than an off-duty cop” beg for multiple interpretations, or an answered cry for help.

“Ebolarama” (from Hot Damn!, 2003)

Oh hey, it’s the “skate rink music video song!” Lyrically, “Ebolarama” stands out as the track establishing the band’s “gentlemen of the night” identity for a couple of years. There are references to pails by the side of the bed, doing shots in Hell at the bar, and not talking about the night before. What’s most impressive is how they wrote an entire piece rotating off of a few chords, transforming into the clap-happy anthem as we know it. The selling point of this song? The brutal, self-serving one-liner: “This is a rock ‘n roll takeover.” It’s a bit of a sardonic rip at how to party. From then on, the real demon of heartache beams through the anthem, screaming to live life on pure passion and let nothing stand in the way.

“A Gentleman’s Sport” (from The Big Dirty, 2007)

Sonically, The Big Dirty is the heaviest, grittiest work the band has ever done.  More applicable here, there are many incredible lyrics about the music industry and being an artist scattered across the record. “A Gentleman’s Sport” frames the industry and life in the industry as a trap, a plastic rabbit, and a white elephant. It’s the idea that someone is only out for their own pride and the weird ego manifestation that was seen in the mid-2000s from the biggest acts in the world. With the internet predominantly taking over the music scene, it must have been weird for an act that started before the internet to comment, but the manifesto here is bolstered by one of the Buckley brothers’ best guitar performances.

“California, Gracefully” (from Last Night In Town, 2001)

Much of Every Time I Die’s debut LP features sporadic and random parts running into each other, but “California, Gracefully” has enough of the winding riffs that would eventually make ETID such a formidable band. By this point in the LP, a lot of the guitar work follows a pattern of circling around a central riff. The lyrics are a madhouse of a lovesickness that reeks of having alcohol as a sort of “crutch.” It reads like someone lost in a habit of partying, not knowing how to cope and finding a medicine to cure pain, underscored by a inebriated driver about to get behind the wheel and take a bad chance.

“Idiot” (from From Parts Unknown, 2014)

Keith Buckley screams for a full 12 seconds — and it’s pure chaos. Ryan Legers’ drums are downright thrilling. The bass from Steve Micciche is a bellow within. And the lyrics present the idea of being anxious and annoyed at a party. “Idiot” details how one feels being uncomfortable at a bar, aging around the new, younger blood while trapped in a pit they forced themselves into. The closing lyrics themselves are pure poetry: “All I want is for everyone to come to Hell/There we can be free and learn to ourselves.”

“The New Black” (from Gutter Phenomenon, 2005)

You hear that? It’s the refreshing sound of a beer can being cracked open. “The New Black” would be this Perfect LP’s lead single. It’s a good introduction to the band in general, sporting a cool guitar solo and a more traditional vocal approach, giving a bit of a streamlined bite of what ETID is about. The lyrics and the overall presentation of the song feels entirely sarcastic, and is about selling yourself the right way to make it. Guess it’s good it’s in here surrounded by all these rockin’ tunes, eh?

“We’rewolf” (from The Big Dirty, 2007)

Nothing like being too much of a party animal, right? This song coerced everyone to treat it the wrong way. It’s a fun party song, but at its core it’s a gritty anthem highlighting the downfall of alcoholism. It has a Southern tinge wrung out in its guitars, much like the almighty, drink-soaked Pantera would do.

“Decayin’ With The Boys” (from From Parts Unknown, 2014)

Continuing with the fun, we’re onto one of the best singles ETID have ever put out.  Buckley exclaiming “the uppers” are lowering him under a grave while “the downers” are bringing him back up to a ditch is ingenious. The drums take the forefront and lead the charge, busting down the door and letting the light of From Parts Unknown lead the band into a new place in their career: a bit of whimsy injected into a lot of weight. Nothing could take them down now, right?

“Awful Lot” (from Low Teens, 2016)

Well, then life happened. Low Teens was marked by much despair, and while that’s shown across many of the songs, “Awful Lot” is the most sonically riveting. Daniel Davison’s drums never stop, a larger-than-life sound matching Keith Buckley’s world being torn down, especially during the section where he screams “barbarians!” The A guitar tuning really sells this song’s heaviness, coming at a low, as Buckley could not go out and let his mind relax with alcohol because of complications potentially warranting a late-night drive to the hospital. The assertion that “no one is answering my calls anymore/I can never get through/Acknowledge me you motherfuckers/I have called and I’m blue” is thus all the more heartbreaking. This song fits nicely following the “party” anthems, showing off a musical diversity and lyrical closure to that identity.

“Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” (from Ex Lives, 2012)

This track came at a time when no one knew what the band would sound like. Leger was writing what would become Ex Lives with the rest of the lineup, and all of a sudden, “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space” comes out and destroys the reputation of “party or nothing” singles. Incredibly dark and immediate, Buckley assures listeners “I want to be dead with my friends” at the song’s cold open. The song offers incredible insight into the idea that wandering the same “normal” path may not be the key to happiness. Ex Lives was riddled with heartache and lack of self worth, which kind of continues the hopelessness displayed on “Awful Lot.”

“The Marvelous Slut” (from New Junk Aesthetic, 2009)

Remember that breakdown from “Buffalo 666?” Remember how great that felt? This song rides that same wavelength with a similar speed limit. The lyrics find Keith toeing the line of pleasure, while wondering how much he can offer back to the world. Built around a give-and-take mentality, along with collapsing self-confidence, the ending shout of “I’m worth nothing to me” has a really sorrowful, self-loathing bite to it.

“Cheap Ludes” (from Salem, 2015)

“Cheap Ludes” makes fun of the individual from Ex Lives, “the holy unrecognizable lighting up real cigarettes, cursed by ex lives, drinking only to free themselves.” I can’t think of a better sonic slap to the face than Buckley doing it to himself here. A look at how people can personally grow, and at the same time, feel haunted by themselves, the message is best exemplified in the third-person tense shift: “We trained the kind of demons that would rip you apart/We only knew it was love once it broke our hearts/Our best friends float in the bottom of a glass/Don’t hold anybody close that would hold you back.” That wordplay is amazing.

“Map Change” (from Low Teens, 2016)

This is the one song that had to be on the Perfect LP, and it had to either be the opener or the closer. The drums and guitars are tuned up perfectly, with the entire band working together to create a soundtrack of anguish. It’s the most melodic and organized Every Time I Die has ever sounded. The final guitar licks tell stories through their sound, as if everyone else is smiling but they have no clue how deep your grief is.  You might as well not exist, but you do. “Map Change” is a brilliantly grim perception of life, and the best positioning of that mental state the band has, or will ever have, written.

What’s your Perfect LP? Leave your tracklisting in the comments. 

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Sean Gonzalez

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