Label: Ruined Smile Records
It’s a real joy to hear a band progressing with each one of their releases. Even if it’s not a major musical change, it’s good to be able to piece together the small shifts and consider them in the context of a much larger musical evolution, as a band find their voice and niche. Such is the case with Moral Straightjacket on their first album, Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me. The changes in their sound when compared with their previous EPs are slight, but considered in the wider context of genre and tone, they’re significant enough to show a band really coming in to their own, moving beyond their chief influences to the point where no single comparison really feels accurate. That the music contained on the album is so strong and moving helps, too.
On previous Moral Straightjacket records, the shadow of Self Defense Family has been undeniable, but that’s no longer the key comparison on Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me. Whilst there’s still elements that recall that band, aspects of dark post-punk (Joy Division and the like) are just as prevalent, with tracks such as “Anticlimax” completely moving beyond the 90’s emo sound that characterized previous Moral Straightjacket releases. Aspects of that genre are still present throughout much of the album, but it’s no longer the main sound that the band are drawing from. That post-punk influence may have started to make itself felt on Into The Light, but here it feels so much stronger in every possible way. It makes Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me a much darker, more varied album than I was expecting, and it’s certainly more emotionally forceful than would otherwise be the case.
More than the variety in sound the album presents, it’s that emotional weight and force which is so impressive about it. After several releases of considerable emotional power, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise if maybe the band (and listener) began to burn out on such aspects. But by adding new elements to their sound, Moral Straightjacket have ensured that there’s no burn-out or fatigue, both emotionally and musically. What’s especially impressive is how naturally it all flows together and the different elements compliment one another, working together to create an interesting, emotional record. And even if there’s still plenty of emo here in sound and tone, it’s of a more mature kind than that word usually implies – it’s not a record for someone dealing with their first crush rejecting them, but for people who have been through life and have a few scars that maybe haven’t healed as well as they should have.
Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me maybe isn’t the kind of album you’ll listen to on a regular basis, but that’s OK. It’s the sort of album you turn to when things don’t feel right, and you need something to help you get through. Having said that though, it’s musically strong and interesting enough to be worthwhile as more than an exercise in catharsis. There’s a lot to recommend here. I had high hopes for this, and they’ve been more than met.
Earth Is Not Good Enough For Me can be streamed, downloaded, and purchased on cassette via Bandcamp.