Album stream: Via AltPress
It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about this, the final album by Bane, one of the most respected hardcore bands of our time. Right from their very first releases they have been notable within the hardcore scene for their intelligent, mature lyrics – arguably some of the best ever written by a punk band, not just in short, quotable examples but also when taken as a whole – and their melodic hardcore has always been amongst the best of the style. Second album Give Blood is rightly regarded as a masterpiece, and had a huge personal impact on this writer. As such, that the band were to release one final album before breaking up came as sad news, but no big shock. The band have been less active over recent years, as members have moved on and grown up. The writing was always on the wall, but to have it confirmed was still a blow.
So now that the fittingly titled Don’t Wait Up is here, it’s a very bitter-sweet moment. New music from Bane is always something to look forward to, but knowing that no more will follow? It’s a bit of a downer, to put it lightly. The album arrives with incredibly high, perhaps unrealistic levels of expectation, doubtlessly bolstered by knowing that this is to be the band’s epitaph. Bane are intelligent and self-aware enough to know how respected and loved they are within the hardcore community, and it seems impossible that this has not had an impact upon the writing for this album.
Even a quick glance over the lyrics for the album will confirm this is the case – this album is very much a goodbye, though thankfully, it does not solely concern itself with its own existence. Tracks such as “All The Way Through”, “Park St.” and “Post Hoc (Ergo Propter Hoc)” carry on the hardcore tradition of writing songs about personal integrity, finding companionship through music, and rising above the challenges that life throws at us all. Meanwhile, “Calling Hours” and “Wrong Planet” deal with far weightier issues than most bands would dare to tackle, and do so with all the intelligence and skill of poetry. There are too many examples to list, and to quote them in part robs them of some of their power, but the lyrics on Don’t Wait Up can uniformly be considered amongst the best within Bane’s discography.
But what of the music? After all, this is not a spoken word album. The good news is, as much effort and attention to detail has gone in to the music as it has the lyrics. There are few real surprises or departures from Bane’s style of melodic hardcore, which has stayed fairly consistent throughout their career. But what is notable is that the music is the equal of anything the band has recorded before, and there is plenty of evidence here to show that Bane are still one of the best bands around at creating powerful, sincere melodic hardcore. It only takes a few moments for opener “Non-Negotiable” to have goose-flesh breaking out on my arms, such is its power. The up-tempo “All The Way Through” is a particular favourite, featuring an exceptionally powerful breakdown section. Likewise, the shifts from furious tempos to something more mid-paced during “What Awaits Us Now” are handled very well, and are very effective.
That is not to say that the band shy away from taking risks, though; “Calling Hours” is something of an epic, shifting through several movements within its five minute duration, with the shift from gang vocals to a female lead being especially impressive. “Hard To Find” also possesses a creative edge that simply describing its component parts does not do justice to, especially with the way it leads in to “Lost At Sea”. Meanwhile, “Wrong Planet” is as close to a power-ballad as hardcore can possibly come, and whilst that might sound horrendous on paper, it is surprisingly successful in execution, with an emotional closing moments. Even so, these changes and shifts are not so great that they will scare anyone away who enjoyed Bane’s previous releases; they’ve hardly gone prog on us, they’re just being that bit more adventurous at points.
The last words have to go to final track “Final Backward Glance”, though. A self-knowing goodbye from the band, it perhaps sums Bane up better than any of their other songs could, and features some of their strongest ever lyrics. Musically, it is also perhaps an excellent summary of the band’s strengths, being melodic, largely up-tempo with well placed gang vocals, and moves in to slower, emotional, incredibly powerful moments that give the vocals and lyrics the prominence they deserve for the closer. “I’ve never been much good at saying goodbye” insists vocalist Aaron Bedard, but Don’t Wait Up proves him both right and wrong. As a musical farewell, this album is superb, and close to flawless. But at the same time, it makes it clear that this is not an ending, but more a passing on of the torch. As the closing song says, “A wasted life is worse than death/It’s up to you to figure out the rest”.
And that, perhaps, is Bane’s greatest contribution to hardcore. They have always treated their listeners with respect and intelligence, shying away from the blatant preaching and sound-bites of other bands that try to offer inspirational or sincere lyrics. They do not offer the answers to life’s questions and challenges, but instead have written songs that offer understanding, companionship, and the feeling that growing up does not mean abandoning your youth. The inclusion of the names of former members in the band line-up is also a nice touch, and a further sign of why Bane are perhaps the band that embodies all the best qualities of hardcore, and why their coming to an end is a genuine loss not just for hardcore, but for anyone looking for inspirational, intelligent music. Thankfully, they have delivered a stunning epitaph in Don’t Wait Up, and I cannot recommend this album highly enough.